My cousins and I wearing Oaxacan dresses in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Mia Martinez)

Opinion

Column: Life as an Oaxacan

Racism is everywhere. But we should be proud of who we are and know there will always be people out there who have your back.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/miamartinez11/" target="_self">Mia Martinez</a>

Mia Martinez

December 1, 2022
It was recently revealed that former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and other City Council Members made racist remarks about Oaxacans and other people of color. I want all of my Indigenous brothers and sisters, as well as all others affected by those racist remarks, to know that her remarks should mean nothing to them. We should be proud of where we come from, how we look, and our cultures. we shouldn’t let these remarks affect how we feel or live.

When I first heard the audio tapes I was shocked. I was shocked because this woman, a Latina woman herself,  should know the struggles of racism. Did she not think about how these words would affect herself and others? Did she let her position and power get to her head? Something we should never forget is where we come from. Before being a city council member, Nury was the daughter of a dishwasher and factory worker from Zacatecas, Mexico. Knowing the struggles her parents went through, she should know better.

We’re not just “little short dark people,” as Martinez said. We’re human beings with feelings. We might not all have jobs like city council members, but we have jobs that provide for our families. We deserve respect just like everyone else.

I am proud of my family and our culture. My grandpa came to the United States to look for a better job with a better salary, so he could provide for his family. My grandma sold and still sells tamales and other Oaxacan foods to bring extra money in. Their jobs might not be all that, but I am proud of them because even though they didn’t have big jobs they found a way to provide for their family.

Me in a Oaxacan dress in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Mia Martinez)

My mother is a pastry chef and my father is a waiter at an Italian restaurant and I’ve never once been ashamed of saying it. Thanks to these jobs, thanks to my parents I have the opportunity to have an education. 

After Martinez’s racist remarks were leaked and she resigned from the City Council, she said she hopes to inspire all the “little Latina girls across the city” to “dream beyond that which they can see.” She is not an inspiration. An inspiration is a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation. Our inspiration should come from our families, our parents and our culture.

My biggest inspiration is my older sister Salma and my mother. Despite all the struggles my older sister went through, she accomplished her dreams. She was told she couldn’t do this and that, but she has always proven people wrong. She is currently a student at UCLA, majoring in political science and economics, proving everyone who told her she couldn’t accomplish her dreams wrong.

“Embracing my Oaxacan culture has helped me navigate through college, especially during times in which I feel imposter syndrome,” my sister Salma said. “I find comfort in knowing that I will one day give back to my community through the educational opportunities that I am receiving.”

My mother is a wonderful woman, who has always supported me in every step of my life. She’s gone through a lot to provide for me and my sisters and I will always be grateful for her. She’s accomplished a lot for someone who didn’t get to have a proper education and I am very proud of being her daughter. 

Racism is everywhere, anytime and it can even come from your people. But we shouldn’t let ourselves be affected by it. We should just live our lives and be proud of who we are. But if you ever are affected by it, just know there will always be people out there who have your back and will be there for you.

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