After multiple periods of colonization, Indigenous communities in Mexico continue to face discrimination. Distinct from individuals of Spanish and mestizo, or mixed race, heritage in Mexico, Indigenous communities maintain their own cultural values, practices, and languages. Economic policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created unsustainable working conditions in the 20th century, leading thousands to migrate to northern Mexico and the United States. Many have entered low-wage agricultural jobs, and the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS) estimates that 165,000 of California’s farmworkers and their family members are Indigenous.
While community-based radio offers a source of common communication in southern Mexico, few similar radios have been established within Indigenous immigrant communities in the United States. Distinct from for-profit and commercial media, community radios enable participants to shape their own media messaging and gain agency by telling their own stories. In California, Low Power FM community radio stations are connected to non-profit organizations such as the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) in Oxnard, CA. Through programming, communities find a means of connection and a platform to discuss issues in Indigenous languages that remain largely absent from mainstream media outlets.
Broadcasts become even more critical during moments of crisis such as COVID-19, when questions of health care access, education, social injustice, and labor rights gain salience. This project looks at the ways in which small community radios are enabling listeners in California to improve their quality of life through advocacy and resources in their native languages.