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The Other Mexicans: Indigenous people come from a world apart from Spanish-speaking Mexicans


By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published: 08 July 2013


From National Geographic...


Article excerpt:  On a dusty highway in California's Central Valley, a black Chevy truck heads toward bright fields of grapes dotting the barren brown earth. It is a warm June day, and the truck's windows are cracked open to get a little air. Out wafts a rap song: Spanish rhymes interspersed with the occasional English phrase —"hell yes." Toward the middle of the song a third language beats its way in. "That is Mixteco," says the driver, Miguel Villegas.


Mixteco is Villegas's native language. It is the only language he spoke fluently when he came to the United States sixteen years ago at the age of seven. The trilingual rap song is his own creation and he takes to heart its Spanish language refrain: "Mixteco is a language, not a dialect. It's the gold that I treasure."


Link to the full news story here.


InterpretAmerica's take: This article highlights the challenges of indigenous language speakers from southern Mexico and Central America. Yet their story is illustrative for indigenous language communities from all over the world that have landed here in the United States, and in unexpected places. Every heard of Karen? This is a Cambodian language with a significant community in Colorado. How about the many dialects and variants on Somali or Arabic that midwestern states are seeing for the first time? These communities face additional challenges in their new homes in the US and around the world, as they integrate into a Western culture far removed from their traditional indigenous practices. Our profession must adjust as well. As any of us who belong to listserves can attest to, the calls for interpreters for these languages go out nation-wide and often go unmet. How do we as a field attract, train and retain competent interpreters and translators in these languages? 

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