western hemisphere institute for security cooperation


Message to Bernie from OaxaCalifornia
“Good afternoon senator Sanders.
My name is Odilia Romero, Indigenous Bene Xhon.
I was born in one of Mexico’s most indigenous states: Oaxaca.
My community is up in the highlands, where we say in my native language, “We wake up walking through the clouds,” Xgollo.

Out of the 68 indigenous languages spoken in the Mexican republic, 16 are spoken in our state. Mexico is a multicultural, multilingual country, where 7.2 million Mexicans speak an indigenous language and where 11.3% speak only an indigenous language. One out of five Mexicans is indigenous, according to the Mexican Human Rights Commission.

I come from a sacred place, where now very few people live because most of us are here in Los Angeles.
Indigenous communities are rich in culture and natural resources. However, everyday we are forced to leave due to U.S. agricultural dumping, military aid, the War on Drugs, and our lands being taken by transnational companies.
When we stand for the land and humans rights, we are threatened with death by the Mexican police and army, as we saw with the 43 missing students in Guerrero who were mostly indigenous. Many members of the Mexican army and police are trained in the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Not to wage a war against drugs but against indigenous communities in states like Oaxaca and Chiapas or Guerrero.
Many of us are forced to have starvation salaries working for US companies in Mexico. We go from being land owners to becoming low-wage workers, that is the reason why we come to the U.S., it is the economic polices. In the USA we are in the same condition. We make more then 20% of the agricultural labor force in California. We face discrimination, structural racism, and labor exploitation. We have integrated to the U.S. culture. We now vote. We now have Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA graduates. Not only with bachelors degrees, but also with master’s and Ph.D.s.

We contribute economically and culturally to the social fabric of the United States. We are proud to call ourselves American because we are part of the American continent, yet we are also proud of being from this great country. We also have the right to be treated equally while being different.

For this reason, I ask: “What will you and your team do to build a broad, inclusive coalition that acknowledges our diverse immigrant communities and create policies that recognize indigenous peoples’ right to stay home, making migration a voluntary option instead of a forced necessity? Will you ensure that we renegotiate NAFTA so that it no longer leads to poverty and displacement in our communities in Oaxaca, and prohibit any future agreements, like TPP, that increase poverty, unemployment, low wages and displacement in indigenous communities?
Thank you and welcome to Oaxacalifornia .”
-Odilia Romero speech to Bernie Sanders on 5/4/16