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Check Out Briseida Mendez & Jessica Antonio’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Briseida Mendez & Jessica Antonio.

Hi Briseida & Jessica, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Neto is a cultural and educational page that aims to create a space in which we can learn about Oaxaca’s culture, continue to preserve and document our indigenous languages and empower one another. Before the pandemic, we were reflecting on our background and our culture, everything we know and how we learned it. We are women of Zapotec descent and as indigenous people, we are not represented in mainstream media. We saw that this along with other factors, lead to further cultural disconnect. We thought about the disconnection younger generations have with our cultura Oaxaqueña and how in the process, our languages are being lost. Neto was born with the goal of not only preserving and encouraging people to speak their native languages but to also spotlight all the great things being achieved by bene wlhall (community members). We started with an idea that continues to expand. Our community feels represented by different individuals that are just like themselves. We feel comfortable speaking our native languages without being judged. We have a long way to go, but Oaxaqueños are making an impact!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges has been finding a balance between planning and delivering content to our community while maintaining full-time jobs. We want to make sure resources are accessible to our community members, but we also continue to work because we love what we do and need to continue providing for ourselves and our families. In addition, people don’t recognize that we face generational trauma and discrimination. People don’t understand that our parents were discouraged from speaking their mother tongues; schools punished them when they spoke their native language. Instead they were pushed to learn Spanish and when they migrated, they had to learn English. Language is our identity and everyday we fight to keep it alive. Finally, we hope anyone that comes across our page understands that we are also still learning. The learning never ends, it’s a mutual learning space and we encourage people to reach out to us to collaborate on topics that we ourselves are not experts on. We want everyone to feel comfortable to contribute to the space.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We focus on highlighting indigenous languages of Oaxaca, Mexico, but the majority of our work focuses on Zapotec of the Northern region of Oaxaca, Dilla Xhon. We are from the community of San Francisco Yateé, Villa Alta, Oaxaca MX. We learned Zapoteco from our grandparents and we want to transmit the little knowledge we have to our community and younger generations. We bring awareness by making content in Zapoteco that the youth can learn from. In addition, we highlight our own community members that are making an impact in the community and around the world. We hope that through this platform, people can network and learn amongst each other in addition to feeling represented. There’s a quote that says, “you can’t be what you can’t see,” we want to contribute to this not being the norm anymore by uplifting and highlighting the achievements of our community members.

As an audience, we want you to know that our work was inspired by the community work we have seen take place in Los Angeles and in our own neighboring communities in Oaxaca. Keeping languages alive is community work and resistance. We are always learning and growing as individuals and as a community, if we have inspired at least one person, then that is all that matters and that’s why we do this. We want to share with the readers that there are over 68 indigenous languages in Mexico and Zapoteco has many variants. Our platform’s content highlights Zapotec of the Northern region of Oaxaca (Sierra Norte) and just like us, there are so many people that are working towards the same goal and we hope to continue our work together. We believe our work brings visibility, courage and strength. We are happy that our work helps our community members embrace their roots and feel pride in who they are. Their language, their features, their whole being is a representation of our ancestors.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
The best advice we have is to reach out to as many people you want to learn from. Don’t feel discouraged or intimidated, the worst response you can receive is a “no,” and that leaves you exactly where you started so you can continue your search. What has worked well for us has been to talk to people, listen to what they have to say and learn what we need to learn.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Images were captured by Jessica and Briseida

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