Minerva Mendoza is an indigenous Mixteca from the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. When she was seven years old, her family migrated to California in search of better opportunities and settled in Madera. She earned a degree in psychology from Fresno State in 2013.
Minerva’s journey with the Pan Valley Institute (PVI) program began in 2006 when, as a high school student, she volunteered for the Tamejavi Festival. She gained additional experience in 2011, when she joined other indigenous youth in conducting a participatory action research project in collaboration with UC Santa Cruz. Titled “Voices of Indigenous Oaxacan Youth in the Central Valley: Creating Our Sense of Belonging in California,” it documented the civic participation of migrant Mexican indigenous young adults. It was one of the first documentation projects that shared the experience of the 1.5 generation of immigrants.
In 2012, Minerva participated in the AFSC Youth Apprentice Program. Coming from an indigenous, immigrant, farm-working and mixed-status family, PVI’s work earned a special place in her heart, particularly because of their efforts to elevate the voices of marginalized communities. She admired their efforts to provide safe spaces where immigrant and refugee communities could come together. As the apprenticeship was coming to an end, Minerva was offered the opportunity to provide administrative support to launch the Tamejavi Cultural Organizing Fellowship Program (TCOFP). In 2015, she earned the position of program associate. In this role, she has supported the successful implementation of three cohorts of the Tamejavi Cultural Organizing Fellowship Program (TCOFP) and two cohorts of the ArteVism Fellowship Program. In addition, she supported the development and production of “Building Collective Knowledge: A Creative Approach to Social Change Toolbox” and the production of the book “Syrian Recipes from Home.”
In 2021, Minerva co-managed a local grassroots city council campaign with a Mixteco colleague and community organizer. The campaign was driven completely by volunteers and small donations from community members who had long waited for true representation. The energy, enthusiasm and community organizing efforts led to the election of the first indigenous Mixteca woman to Madera’s City Council, marking a historic moment for the local Oaxacan community.