Indigenous Migrants Organize Cultural Awareness Conference on September 23, 2011

September 17, 2011 at

Los Angeles, CA. An immigrant woman from the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca and her child of 5 years were accused by DCFS of child abuse against an infant. The woman was not allowed to prove her innocence because of language barriers.

The case went to court approximately three years ago. Odilia Romero, a Zapotec interpreter and Women’s Coordinator for the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, briefly intervened in the case. After hearing the information during translation, Ms. Romero tried to intervene in favor of the woman, but was excluded from the case because interpreters are not allowed to advocate for the accused.

The issue began one day when the four-month-old baby began crying uncontrollably. The women’s aunt called paramedics who took the baby to a clinic where it was determined that the baby suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome. The district attorney removed both children from the home despite pleas from the mother to leave them with her.

The woman tried to explain that she came to the United States fleeing from domestic abuse. She explained that her husband would kick her on her belly while she was pregnant and this was probably the reason why the baby now suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome.

When the interpreter translated what the Zapotec woman had said, the social worker stated that the argument had no scientific basis. The social worker also pointed out that the accused had shown no emotional response while in the court proceedings. The interpreter tried to intervene stating that the woman did not react because she did not understand English and her Spanish was also limited. The outcome of the case is not known because the translator was taken off the case. Regardless of the outcome, the Zapotec woman had to deal with being separated from her children because she was not able to communicate using her own language.

Unfortunately, for Indigenous migrant communities from throughout this continent living in the United States, these types of situations are very frequent. Oaxacan Indigenous communities are ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse. In Oaxaca there are 16 Indigenous nations, each with their own language.

It is estimated that in the United States there are around 550,000 Oaxacan immigrants concentrated in California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Florida, Texas, New York, and, to a lesser degree, in Nevada.

California has the highest number of Oaxacan immigrants, approximately 320,000. One hundred eighty of them (mostly Zapotec from the Central Valleys and Northern Sierra of Oaxaca) are concentrated in southern California, and more specifically in Los Angeles. Approximately 130,000 Mixtecs and 10,000 Triquis live in Northern San Diego County, Central Valley and on the Coast of Central California.

On September 23, 2011, as part of an effort to increase understanding and sensitivity from public employees in Los Angeles County toward Indigenous Migrant Communities in the area, FIOB and CBDIO will hold a Cultural Sensitivity Conference focused on topics important to our communities.

In order to give more information about this upcoming workshop we will be holding a Press Conference on Monday, September 19, 2011 at 11:00AM at W. 8th #306. LA CA 90005.

For more information contact: Odilia Romero (213) 359-0264 or Bertha Rodriguez (213) 251-8481

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