Rufino Domínguez-Santos – who left his Oaxacan village of San Miguel Cuevas when he was 16 years old in the 1980s to work in the agricultural fields of the San Joaquin Valley for economic reasons and after being threatened for speaking out in favor of the rights from the Mixtec community – died on Nov. 11, a little over a year after being diagnosed with a malignant cancer tumor in his right brain.
It is the same cancer that has infected Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
His burial will be in Oaxaca.
The Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB) informed the media and social organizations of the death of the former general coordinator of the FIOB (2001-08) and who then served as the first immigrant appointed as director of the Oaxacan Migrant Assistance Institute (IOAM, abbreviation in English) under the administration of Gov. Gabino Cué Monteagudo (2010-16).
“It’s not about crying or swelling melancholy,” the statement said. “It’s about remembering and always keeping in mind the ideals and principles Rufino fought for during his life.
“Since the 80s, his passion for seeing native peoples without exploitation of work or violation of human rights led him to create with those who believed in him, the Organization of the Exploited and Oppressed People (OPEO, abbreviation in English), his first trench from where he began a fight without truce for the claim of the indigenous peoples.”
Domínguez-Santos told Vida en el Valle in 2011 of his trip to the United States.
“I did not have to anything eat there or work that paid me enough to support me and my family,” he said.
When he began to be threatened for his defense of the Mixtecos, Domínguez-Santos accepted the suggestion of his parents and traveled north. He arrived during a cold winter in Selma and began his career as a migrant agricultural worker.
He saw and heard of discrimination against Oaxacans in the fields and homes. Domínguez-Santos began to advocate for their rights with the California Rural Legal Assistance. He was then director of the Binational Center for the Indigenous Development of Oaxaca (CBDIO, English abbreviation).
In 2010, he accepted Cué Monteagudo’s request to be part of his cabinet.
“At first, I thought it was a joke, like the ones that happen on the radio and then I realized that I was really talking to the governor,” said Domínguez-Santos.
He accepted the opportunity to “open doors for Mexican and Central American immigrants.”
“I’ve never worked for a government, but I recognize that the opportunity is going to be great and it’s going to represent a big change for me,” he said.
Domínguez-Santos returned to Fresno after resigning his post in Oaxaca in August 2016 for his disagreement over the police raid in Asunción Nochixtlán.
“I reject in the strongest terms the method of violence with all the technological, police and economic power of the government against the social, union or student struggle,” he explained.
“I ask (the governor) not to use more violence, all the strength of the State and the resources of Oaxacan citizens to end human lives in the remainder of this administration. It is important to build bridges of dialogue about the differences to solve the serious problems of the state.”
Upon returning to the San Joaquín Valley, Domínguez-Santos became involved in campaigns for all immigrants. He was active in social networks to comment on issues of President Donald J. Trump or issues of importance to Oaxacans on both sides of the border.
He was recognized at the Guelaguetza California 2017 at Calwa Park in September. He was also honored by the Oaxacan community in May.
Domínguez-Santos received many awards, including the 2008 Leadership Award from the California Wellness Foundation for his work on behalf of indigenous migrant communities in California.
▪ Leadership Award for a Changing World, awarded by the Ford Foundation, the Advocacy Institute and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at the University of New York (2001).
▪ Local Hero of the Year Award, awarded by Valley public television KVPT and the Union Bank of California, during Hispanic Heritage Month (2001).
▪ Invited by Mexican President Vicente Fox to participate as adviser to the Council for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (2001).
▪ Several recognitions by the state Senate and the Assembly, as well as Congress.
The FIOB, says the press release, “broadly recognizes the contribution of Rufino Domínguez-Santos in the struggle to achieve justice, peace and freedom in our villages, while reaffirming our commitment to continue moving this winding path to achieve the objectives that like us, thousands of women and men have been raised and with their dedication and passion, dignify the struggle in various parts of the world.”
Domínguez-Santos leaves his wife, Oralia Maceda, and two children. He also leaves four children from an earlier marriage.
The reaction on social networks was quick on Sunday.
▪ “I regret the passing death of comrade Rufino Dominguez Santos, one of the great leaders of the Oaxacan community on both sides of the border, a tireless defender of indigenous peoples ...,” wrote Christian Ramírez of San Diego.
▪ “Founder of the Binational Center and leader of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations, he worked tirelessly on both sides of the border to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. In the picture here is the one speaking at the Fresno Guelaguetza 2011. DEP, Rufino,” wrote Chris Schneider.
▪ “See you later teacher! Great leader and reason to continue in the fight! You are now in heaven,” Gloria Ramírez wrote.