These are the programs of Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño in the the State of California, United States.
INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES INTERPRETERS PROGRAM
Indigenous Interpreters: A Necessary Bridge Between Cultures
It is not enough to speak two or more languages to be an interpreter. Neither is sufficient to have received a formal training from an educational institution. Language interpretation entails a great responsibility, which also requires knowing how the justice system of the United States works (courts, judges and enforcement agencies) as well as the system of private and public institutions such as hospitals, schools and other social service providers. Moreover, it is a vital requirement to master a wide vocabulary and concepts used in the languages interpreted.
According to Leoncio Vásquez, whom since 1999 has taken trainings as an interpreter of the Mixtec language into English and Spanish, interpretation is a complex work, especially when it is about interpreting in a court case, “even more if it is about a serious case in which every word has to be interpreted correctly because the freedom of the defendant is at stake or he or she is at risk of being detained and there are fines that could be imposed”.
As a matter of fact, the lack of a professional interpreter who knows very well the cultures in which a case is developed has negatively affected many indigenous people who have been condemned due to a lack of understanding and effective communication between the parties involved and the justice system.
Due to the problematic situation derived from the language barrier that thousands of indigenous migrants face in the United States, the Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities (CBDIO), implemented the Indigenous Interpreter Project in 1996 to facilitate the training of the indigenous people who have the skills and characteristics to work as interpreters.
CBDIO’s initiative was based on the Title VI of the Act of Civil Rights of 1964, released by president Lyndon B. Johnson about the right of every person to have an interpreter in the courts.
In January 1996, CBDIO organized in San Juan Bautista, California, an intensive training with the participation of 12 indigenous interpreters. This training session was conducted by professional interpreters from the International Language Institute of Monterrey and it was focused on interpreting techniques, legal terms and professional ethics. This training was held again in 1997 with indigenous interpreters from Guatemala, whom started an organization called Mayavisión.
CBDIO kept promoting these trainings and in 1999, it sponsored a session with the participation of indigenous people who speak Chatino, Zapoteco, Triqui, Lower Mixtec and High Mixtec.
During the months of January and March of 2006, 12 indigenous women speaking Mixtec, Zapotec, Triqui and Chatino, besides Spanish and in some cases English, were trained through intensive sessions of 80 hours, to become professional interpreters. These trainings focused on health issues given the growing demand of medical services among the indigenous people and they gave emphasis to the anatomy of the human body, medical terminology, and confidentiality aspects among other things.
These trainings were organized by CBDIO in collaboration with Healthy House of Merced.
Eugenia Pérez, one of the trainees highlighted the great responsibility of the interpreters when they assist other indigenous people in clinics or hospitals since 85% of the diagnostic that doctors make is based on the symptoms that the patient informs them. The communication between the physician and the patient depends on the interpreters.
“A good interpreter has to go through a training to have the capability of interpreting without omitting anything at all of what is being said in that room. Whether it be at a hospital, at a social services office or any other place delivering a service”, she added.
CBDIO efforts to promote the professionalism of indigenous interpreters as well as the interpreters’ hard work have resulted in better trained indigenous interpreters. These interpreters have been able to do their job at hospitals and clinics, immigration offices and other service providers offices in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Florida and New York.
Despite the fact that indigenous migration to the United States has almost been seven decades, many institutions in this country ignore that the indigenous people of Mexico and other parts of Latin America are very diverse and that we have our own languages, which are very different from Spanish. This is the reason why we consider important to share this information and at the same time we are offering the interpreting services of indigenous people who have been professionally trained by CBDIO.
In Mexico there are 62 indigenous languages. In Oaxaca 16 diverse native languages are spoken. Many of these tongues have two or more variants or dialects, for instance Zapotec of the Isthmus, Zapotec from the Highlands and Zapotec of the Valley, or Mixtec form the Highlands, Mixtec from the Lowlands and Mixtec of the Coast.
CBDIO recommends to the service providers working in the courts, clinics, hospitals, social services offices and police departments, among other institutions, to make use of the interpreters who have received professional trainings to ensure good communication and understanding with their interlocutors.
ADVOCACY AND LEADERSHIP
This program is intended for parents to learn ways to advocate for services that their children need and use programs that are available in the community. For this the CBDIO will recruit 25 parents with children of the ages of 0-5 who show an interest in making changes in their community, this program has duration of one year beginning in October 2010. The parents will attend workshops on leadership, advocacy strategies, and how to use the media to make changes. At the same time, the CBDIO will provide technical assistance to help them develop and implement a work plan that focuses on making changes in the local policies of health services in order for the children to receive quality health services.
HEALTH NETWORK PROMOTERS PROGRAM
The CBDIO in collaboration with the Health Net health plans are providing workshops on various health topics such as, obesity prevention, diabetes, etc. There are 15 to 20 people participating in this program whom at the same time have identified that there are other needs in which they should also focus their efforts. For example keep your community cleaner, that the garbage trucks pass with more frequency in order to avoid that the streets and alleys become full of garbage, also that the transportation services increase their route frequency on the weekends as well, currently the buses pass every hour and their last run is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. To achieve these changes, the promoters started to invite their neighbors and contact the schools where their children are attending to solicit support. They also began to investigate what offices are responsible for these services to request meetings and talk about possible solutions to these issues.
EQUAL VOICE FOR CHANGE IN THE CENTRAL VALLEY.
This collaborative is a partnership between organizations such as Children’s Services Network under the program Parent Voices, Radio Bilingüe and CBDIO, the main goal is to strengthen the skills of community members of different cultures living in the Central Valley of California specifically in Fresno and Madera. The organizations that make up this collaborative will provide support with logistics and technical assistance to ensure the necessary changes. The participants in this program will be actively involved in advocacy campaigns to promote improvements in the health care system, the immigration laws, and the budget of the State of California, among other topics relevant to the welfare of their family.
To achieve this we will organize 6 meetings where 20 community leaders will participate whom will develop and implement an advocacy plan in the topics mentioned above. Direct actions will take place, such as legislative visits at the local, state and federal level, and demonstrations and campaigns to collect signatures to help advance such plans. The media will be utilized to inform the community about the different events related to the work plan. Also a campaign to register new voters and to highlight the importance of exercising their rights as citizens of this country will be promoted.
NAA YIVI DAATUN (HEALTHY PEOPLE)
This program helps families access health and social services, as well as organizes nutritious cooking classes. It provides information to families about changes in health care reform and the process of Medi-Cal health plans. Assists families to register their children to Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, Kaiser Kids and teaches them how to use the services offered by these programs. CBDIO will recruit a group of indigenous people and other Mexican immigrants to participate in monthly classes where invited experts on various health issues, prevention and cooking classes will present. Participants will prepare food together, using recipes that they prepare themselves with the support of a dietician considering the nutritional content of each ingredient. In addition, the participants will be encouraged to be physically active.
XI’NA NAVALI/NACOA SNIA (CHILDREN FIRST)
With support from First 5 Monterey County, CBDIO launched this project in July of 2007 in the city of Greenfield and King City. This program aims to help indigenous parents increase their understanding of their children’s development and the role they play as the children’s first teachers during the first 5 years of their lives. It also seek to promote the effective engagement of the indigenous families in the local decision-making of the city of Greenfield to promote changes that improve the education and well-being of their children. To accomplish this, the project developed a culturally appropriate curriculum, a DVD in Triqui that are utilized as tools to provide classes to indigenous parents who have children of ages 0-5. The promotoras who work with this program also help indigenous families access health, social and educational programs by providing the following services: interpreting in Mixteco and Triqui, filling forms and reports for programs such as Medi-Cal, Welfare and Food Stamps; scheduling medical appointments, information and referrals.
To see pictures of past Guelaguetzas California click here
Guelaguetza California 2007 by Chris Schneider
Promote the culture of our indigenous communities is an important part of our mission. That’s why since 1999, we began to organize the Guelaguetza in the city of Fresno with the aim of preserving and disseminating our culture in California, USA.
The Guelaguetza is a space where different communities from Oaxaca have had the opportunity to meet and enjoy some of the culture that we inherited from our ancestors. At the Guelaguetza event, we can keep in touch with our traditions and remember our hometowns. The Guelaguetza is a celebration that allows us to educate our children about the rich culture of our people and that they can feel pride of our millenary tradition.
In our state of Oaxaca, the Guelaguetza is also known as the feast of Lunes del Cerro and takes place in the last two Mondays of the month of July.
As migrants, we chose to rescue this ancient celebration of our indigenous ancestors to keep alive our culture and traditions in the communities in which we live now.
Arizona: A Time and Decade of Betrayal
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
When people the world over think of Arizona, nowadays, they generally think of Gov. Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arapio or state rep. Russell Pearce – the poster children of the state’s move toward legalized discrimination and racial profiling. If they are closely following the politics of the sun state, they also think of state superintendent of schools, Tom Horne, the architect of the state’s move to abolish Ethnic/Raza Studies.
Here, we think of the human toll.
Combined, these Arizona measures are becoming the modern version of Indian Removal and the colonial policy of “reducciones” – a policy aimed at civilizing the “savages.”
To those outside of this insane asylum – this state is being described as the New South. It may indeed be that, including a laboratory for setting the stage for apartheid governance in a part of the country that is browning daily. Politically, this is all about the clash of civilizations; one civilization Indigenous to this continent, the other, seemingly hell-bent on continuing the policies of manifest destiny.
Yet, there is something more taking place here. In a sense, to understand Arizona, read Brown Tide Rising by Otto Santa Ana. In it, the author poignantly observes that in this society: “Only humans have human rights.” There can be no doubt that the red-brown peoples of this state are being treated as less than human.
Also, read A Decade of Betrayal by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez. In it, they write about this nation’s obsession with targeting Mexicans during times of economic crises, going back to the period between 1910-1920. And yet, what they point out is that the numerous campaigns that deported hundreds of thousands and even millions of Mexicans, including U.S. citizens, were not indiscriminate, particularly the one conducted in the 1930s, but rather, targeted. Who were targeted were not criminals, but rather, anyone resembling a leader, in particular, community, educational and labor organizers.
In Arizona, there are numerous policies and programs in place (Operation Streamline) to criminalize migrants – which not coincidentally line the pockets of the private prison industry. But beyond that, an array of law enforcement agencies, continue to become extensions of the U.S. Border Patrol – operating as though SB 1070 was already the law of the land.
In Tucson, these draconian measures have now begun to affect the parents of our top students and top student organizers. In the summer, the father of a young high school activist DREAM Student, was picked up by a Sheriff’s deputy while a passenger in a truck. Even though SB 1070 was not in effect, as happens regularly, he was handed over to the Border Patrol. This happened during the middle of the annual Raza Studies Transformative Education Conference this summer. As a community, we rallied to the support of the family, successfully getting him out on bail. I’ve written about her previously as she has publicly identified herself, long before several DREAM Students identified themselves publicly while occupying the offices of Sen. John McCain this past summer. As a proud community organizer, she publicly identifies herself, but I don’t identify her, not even identifying her school, because I still feel the government has the potential to target their families.
For example, this past weekend, the father of one of our top students at the University of Arizona, Michelle Rascon – who is an incredible poet, a Raza Studies alumni, a U.S. citizen and a prospective law student – was picked up at his own home in what appears to have been an elaborate ruse by the FBI. After luring Jesus Gilberto Rascon outside, they proceeded to call the U.S. Border Patrol. As we speak, he is undergoing criminal proceedings that may keep him incarcerated for at least several months – until his final disposition — which could result in a lengthy prison sentence. Of course, there are legal details involved, which will be litigated in court, but suffice to say, that cases such as these point to the absurdity of what the government is doing to divide up families; neither are criminals in any sense of the word.
The federal government claims to no longer be targeting students or their families and that its policies are designed instead to primarily go after “criminal aliens.” The draconian enforcement measures seen around the country, especially in Arizona, belie this so-called new policy. Apparently, if the nation criminalizes non-violent migrants through its various operations and 287(g) agreements, including Secure Communities, then once criminalized, they now become “criminal aliens,” thus primary targets. Circular logic at its best.
We appear to be in the midst of another decade of betrayal.
* A note from Michelle Rascon: My family and I are eternally grateful for all of the support we have received. Please take this time and help us make an impact on his case. Please email me letters of support: To whom it may concern, ASAP if you are able to help or fax them to 520-884-5887. Michelle Rascon firstname.lastname@example.org
* A note from Derechos Humanos: Please help our sister, Michelle, and her family during this difficult time. We must support each other. Donate online or mail a check or money order to Arizona Border Rights Foundation PO Box 1286, Tucson, AZ 85702-1268, with “Rascon Family” in the memo field. For more donation info, write to: email@example.com.
Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com
Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722