I want people who say that they love my culture to show it deeply. Not by packaging it into a service or product, but to be of service to the people whose culture they love.

I am Fabiola Santiago Hernandez (she/they/mama), Oaxaca-born, California-raised. I identify as a diasporic Zapotec migrant and a descendant of mezcal makers from the “World Capital of Mezcal”, Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, Mexico. My father migrated to the US in the mid 1980’s because the local mezcal economy in Matatlán plummeted. He sent for the rest of the family to join him in Los Angeles, CA in the early 1990’s where we all remained undocumented for over 20 years.

Like many Oaxacan migrants in Los Angeles, I was part of the food service industry. My 10 year experience in the industry helped me pay for college and graduate school–this was before the passage and implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. These life experiences also piqued my curiosity in social change and cemented my commitment to social movements and equity. 

Since getting my green card (permanent residence) in 2013, I visit my motherland a couple times a year. In more recent years, I’ve been staying in Oaxaca for longer stretches at a time. This is a life I didn’t imagine possible when I was trapped in the abyss of invisibility and dehumanization that is the US immigration system. 

That’s why my work weaves cultural preservation with futures of equitable possibility. A future where people with rich cultures also have economic stability. A future where we don’t experience systemic barriers but rather, have equitable opportunities. A future that does away with monocultures of all things and embraces the coexistence of diverse cultures. You can find the collective work to make visible and preserve the Indigenous roots of Oaxaca’s rich cultures at Mi Oaxaca.

Fabiola, a brown woman, with long black hair wearing mushroom earrings and a huipil from Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. She is standing in front of aloe vera plants and other greenery.
Photo: Alma Santiago, @HierbitaSoul

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Cover Photo: Luis Hernández, @nomad.cook