Los Angeles, California, January 14, 2009
Gaspar Rivera-Salgado (FIOB) Phone: (310) 206-3910 (Los Angeles)
Rufino Dominguez-Santos (CBDIO) Phone: (559) 499-1178 (Fresno)
STATEMENT ON THE INDIGENOUS TRIQUI IN GREENFIELD
The Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB) and the Binational Center for the Development of Indigenous Oaxacans (CBDIO) join forces to inform the media and the general public about their position towards the case of the indigenous Triqui Marcelino de Jesús Martínez.
1. One of the hardships of living in a multicultural country like the United States is being able to understand the multiple cultural practices that are brought by the various migrant groups. It is imperative, both for the FIOB and the CBDIO, that there is a broad understanding of the diverse cultural practices and customs of the indigenous communities.
Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most diverse states. In the state alone there are 16 different indigenous peoples and communities, each one speaking its own language and practicing a myriad of customs. From these communities the Mixtecos, Zapotecos, Chatinos and Triquis have migrated in large numbers to the United States, specifically to California, since the late-1980s. Among these indigenous migrants, the Triquis are the most recent arrivals. They face extreme communication barriers, since many speak only their own indigenous language, Triqui.
One of the Triqui community’s distinctive cultural practices involves marriage, whereby the parents asking for a “dowry” from those whom wish to marry their daughter. Dowries in Oaxaca traditionally consist mainly of gifts, such as animals, corn and chilies. Some Triqui families have continued this practice even after migration to the U.S., but instead of gifts in-kind, the father of the bride and the groom agree on a monetary amount. Another characteristic of marriage practices of the Triqui community, as well as in other indigenous communities, is that women get married at a young age. In some rural communities of origin in Oaxaca, Mexico girls still marry between 13 and 14 years of age.
The above information is to explain and contextualize which cultural practices are from the Triqui community in order to avoid snap judgments and incorrect interpretations similar to the one that has been magnified recently by the media, which is a product of the lack of understanding and distortion of indigenous customs and cultural practices.
The FIOB and CBDIO condemns the sensationalism that some of the media outlets have published in relation to the case of Marcelino de Jesús Martínez since it contributes to the public’s misinformation and creates an inaccurate image of the indigenous communities. Specifically, the headlines’ use of words such as “sell” are incorrect, and the term dowry is more appropriate. It is known that this is not exclusively an indigenous practice; it has been a custom of European and Asian cultures in the past and continues to be practiced without them being accused of “selling” their daughters.
2. FIOB and CBDIO are organizations with a long history of work in favor of the respect and dignity of the indigenous communities. Therefore, we condemn any practice that violates the freedom and dignity of any person, including any form of human trafficking.
3. The FIOB and CBDIO as indigenous organizations have made efforts to help indigenous migrants better adapt to the communities that they have settled in. Projects have been implemented to inform and give indigenous people advice on how to better understand American laws. These programs are available to people of low income. At the same time we have attempted to educate the institutions that provide services to the indigenous community in order to have them understand the characteristics of the community. Nonetheless, both organizations have limited resources and need a larger, and committed, support system from the media as well as the public institutions in order to reach our objective of educating the public about the indigenous community.
4. We ask for the media and both national and international society to adopt a more open and less subjective position in this multicultural world that we now live in. Before publishing an article, conduct extensive and in depth research with those affected, with community leaders, with organizations and specialists in that area, as we are the ones who have worked with for our communities for a prolonged period of time. Moreover, this topic is not exclusive to indigenous towns and communities; similar problems exist in other cultures.
We would appreciate any publication space, interview and phone inquiries to clarify this damaging prejudice that continues to be committed against our millenary culture without taking into consideration our own words.
“For the respect of the rights of the indigenous people”
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