By: Nallely Martinez, LCF Grants & Philanthropy Manager
During visits from my mother, she often recounts memories of her first years living as an immigrant from Oaxaca Mexico, in Los Angeles. Her experience is a familiar one shared by many newly arrived immigrants – one defined by hustle, grit, tenacity, and ingenuity – learning how to adapt in a new country.
During her last visit, I asked her what finally made her feel settled? What made the difference?
She described her experience with two nonprofits. She often tells me I was good luck, while I was in her womb, things started to fall into place. However, I know that it was not luck that made the difference, it was community love. This love manifested in the embrace of collective care and cultural affirmations. It is what made the difference for my young immigrant parents.
30 years later, it was this same sense of belonging that made me feel rooted in my Central Coast community, 300 miles from home. Senderos, founded by two indigenous Oaxacan sisters, helped me feel connected to the cultural heritage of my parent’s homeland. Through the nurturing of these two women, our beautiful culture is now celebrated as an integral part of the Santa Cruz community.
Through the pandemic, Senderos were able to quickly mobilize relief dollars to immigrant and indigenous families. Like them, so many indigenous-led groups across the state rose to meet the moment, when many formal institutions failed to do so. These grassroots groups are pillars of our local Latino communities – both in times of celebration and in times of crisis.
California is home to about350,000 Indigenous Oaxacans, who are primarily concentrated in the Central Valley and the southern portion of the state. These Indigenous peoples include Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Purépechas. While Spanish is the dominant language in Mexico, the Mexican government’s Tourism Secretary reports that there are approximately 68 official Indigenous languages across the country with more than 350 variants and dialects. 
At the Latino Community Foundation, we support grassroots nonprofits on the frontlines of social change. There is still a huge inequity in funding going to Latino-led and indigenous-led nonprofits. Only 1% of all national philanthropic dollars reach our groups. It’s time to change that.
Together, we can help reverse decades of disinvestment. We can ensure that the dreams of our indigenous youth from Oaxaca, Guatemala, and Mexico can become a reality.
Join us in supporting these impactful groups:
Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project/Proyecto Mixteco Indigena (MICOP) -A self-governing indigenous group that supports, organizes, and empower the indigenous migrant communities in California’s Central Coast. Their vision is to help create a strong indigenous immigrant community actively engaged to achieve just working and living conditions, equality, and full human rights.
Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO) – An organization led by and for indigenous communities in the rural California regions. CBDIO celebrates the skill, knowledge, and tenacity required of indigenous farmworkers. They help address and overcome the greatest challenges facing diverse indigenous communities—whether in workplaces, neighborhoods, and within community. They celebrate the power of art, culture, and indigenous teachings, and organize leaders to take collective action.
Movimiento Cultural de la Union Indígena (MCUI) – A community-based group of Oaxacan immigrants in California. The group was founded in 2005 by Triqui immigrants from the villages of Santa Cruz Río Venado, Constancia del Rosario, and Putla, Oaxaca. Its core membership continues to consiste of Triqui immigrants, but its membership has now expanded to include Chatino, Mixteco, and Zapoteco immigrants. MCUI is committed to both maintaining its community’s unique culture and modes of artistic expression while, at the same time, making them accessible to others. MCUI’s primary goal is to education elementary school-, middle school-, and high school-aged children about their culture, language, traditions, customs, and history.
Comunidades Indígenas en liderazgo (CIELO) – An Indigenous women-led non-profit organization that works jointly with Indigenous communities residing in Los Angeles. Their fight for social justice includes ending gender-based violence, providing language access rights, cultural preservation, and reproductive justice. CIELO is a link, a resource, and a liaison for migrant Indigenous communities residing in Los Angeles. CIELO hosts an Undocu-Indigenous Fund which in the past few years has provided solidarity funds to nearly 2,500 indigenous migrant families living in the Los Angeles area.
Senderos – An Indigenous woman-led organization in Santa Cruz County that creates pathways to success and builds community by sharing Latino and indigenous culture through traditional arts and by fostering educational opportunities. Their vision is to keep indigenous culture and languages alive, represent their country of origins with pride, and share their culture and contribute the larger community by promoting harmony and breaking stereotypes.
Images: Centro Binacional para el Desarollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), Bryan Patrick for LCF
 Lopez, Nadia. “Indigenous Mexicans in Central Valley Included in Census 2020 | the Fresno Bee.” The Fresno Bee, 16 Sept. 2021.