Madera is the first city in the Central Valley to issue an Indigenous People’s Day proclamation. The historic event took place on Oct. 5 during the regular City Council meeting before an emotional audience. Madera is home to a large indigenous population from southern Mexico—Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Triquis from Oaxaca state and Purepechas from Michoacan state—and local Native Americans.
The proclamation, which was signed by Madera Mayor Santos Garcia, established Oct. 10 as Indigenous People’s Day.
“The idea of a proclamation came up after meetings with local residents, and I introduced it to the City Council a month earlier. They all agreed,” said Madera City Council Member Elsa Mejia.
She is the first indigenous person to be elected in the Central Valley. Mejia, of Mixtec origin, was born in Fresno and has lived in Madera all her life.
Mejia presented the proclamation to Rosa Hernandez, a Mixtec and mother of four who worked in the fields for several years before becoming a small business owner. Hernandez is considered a culture bearer and a storyteller.
Hernandez was a key in organizing the Dia de los Muertos at the Madera Courthouse Park on Nov. 1, an event strongly supported by Mejia and other Madera Council members.
Indigenous people from Oaxaca started to emigrate in large numbers to the United States during the 1980s. Currently, they represent the main workforce in the agricultural fields of California and other states.
There are no exact numbers of how many Oaxacans are in California. Los Angeles is home to thousands of Oaxacan immigrants. In the Central Valley, Madera and Arvin (in Kern County) are known for their large numbers of indigenous residents.