A new wave of hope rushed over Mexico as the results of its general election in July declared the winner of the popular vote also the official president-elect. The historic win of Andrés Manuel López Obrador—who in 2006 mobilized large protests following the results of that presidential election—has not only brought a renewed sense of democracy, but for many it is the promise that a better tomorrow may lie in the horizon for Mexicans in terms of social reform.
As I sit in Oaxaca City’s historic downtown, I bear witness to the immense work that this new administration must undertake to stay true to its word.
Tourists from around the world have descended upon the state to participate in the annual Guelaguetza, which is a celebration throughout July of all Oaxaca’s ethnic groups and their customs. Every summer, the city is lit up with traditional colorful decor, food, clothing and many cultural activities.
It is ironic that the celebration, which aims to honor the culture and traditions of Oaxacans, is not affordable for many locals. It is not surprising, however, as hundreds of thousands of Oaxaca natives have migrated to the United States—and a large concentration live in our own Central Valley—escaping conditions of extreme poverty, violence and lack of educational and employment opportunities.
Still, year after year, I continue to see marginalized indigenous groups demanding respect of their rights. They continue to be ignored by local, state and federal governments.
Children remain working in the streets selling candy, trinkets and shining shoes to earn a living. When the festivities are over and the last tourist flies home, time stands still in this place, which is more than 2,000 miles from Fresno, but so closely tied to it—as for decades the agricultural industry has benefited from the cheap labor provided by its natives.
In the coming months, we will enjoy remakes of Guelaguetza festivities throughout California, including Fresno. It is imperative to keep in mind the issues of inequality that continue to afflict the Oaxacan population as we celebrate the rich diversity it brings to the United States.