In 1993, CRLA launched the Indigenous Farmworker Project to meet the needs of California’s growing voiceless indigenous Mexican farmworker communities. Now known as the Indigenous Program, it provides legal advocacy and educational outreach and supports leadership development in California’s rural indigenous Mexican and Central American communities.
Most of California’s indigenous populations are from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guerrero and Chiapas. Their population has drastically increased over the past two decades, and it is estimated that today, one in four California farmworkers are indigenous Mexicans. Indigenous groups speak dozens of distinct languages. Among the most widely spoken in California are Mixteco, Zapateco, Triqui and P’urhepecha.
From 2007 to 2009, CRLA partnered with researcher Rick Mines to study and document the needs of these hard-to-serve communities. The resulting Mines/CRLA study showed that most governmental agencies and service providers fail to meet the language and cultural needs of these communities. Results of the study, including interactive maps showing sending and receiving regions and demographics of indigenous farmworkers in California. CRLA shared the results of that study through our Rural Justice Forum, and the study can be downloaded here. Rural indigenous farmworkers remain one of California's most isolated, underserved, underpaid, and exploited groups.
For more than twenty years, the Indigenous Program has developed relationships with indigenous clients, communities, and organizations throughout California in order to provide sustainable solutions to meet their needs. Some of the Indigenous Program’s accomplishments include:
The Indigenous Program is led by Director Maureen Keffer and staffed by Community Workers Mariano Alvarez (Triqui), Antonio Flores (Mixteco), Lorenzo Oropeza (Mixteco), Nora Ramirez (Mixteco), and Fausto Sanchez (Mixteco). For more information, contact Maureen Keffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.