Mexican border town identifies members of at least 12 tribes making a living despite language and cultural barriers
JUAREZ, Mexico (Border report) – Migrants from all over the world have come to Juarez in the past three years en route to the United States. They speak Creole, Portuguese, Turkish and other languages but their presence here is ephemeral.
Now city officials are trying to accommodate a non-Spanish speaking population that has grown by the thousands over the past two decades and is here to stay.
“We are the first city in the state to recognize our (Indigenous) communities. We have 12 here,” said Juarez City Councilwoman Patricia Mendoza, who led the creation of a commission to facilitate access to government services for members of the Mazahua, Mixtec, Raramuri and Huichol communities in Juarez. .
The first task of the commission will be to provide translation and interpretation services to these tribes so that they can obtain basic services and documents, and alert the authorities of crimes committed against them.
“It’s not about organizing festivals or ethnic events. We want to meet the basic daily needs of these communities, to ensure that they get help and support in their dealings with the government. We know that it is difficult for them to understand the language and the process. It’s something totally new and totally positive and totally permanent,” said Karen Mora, a Social Development Department official who helped get the commission off the ground.
Mendoza says indigenous peoples in Mexico have traditionally been discriminated against. She fears that language and cultural barriers prevent them from reporting not only acts of discrimination, but also crimes. Juarez, for example, responds to approximately 1,200 domestic violence calls per month.
“We want women to know their rights such as education, work, inclusion and the freedom to make their own choices,” the adviser said. “Everyone must know their rights in order to be part of society.”
City officials would like the commission to be made up of tribal members so they can do the interpretations and be culturally sensitive. Mendoza said some indigenous families have been in Juarez for 20 to 30 years and their bilingual children who nevertheless retain their culture would be perfect for the job.
Mendoza does not know exactly how many Indigenous people live in Juarez, as the last census lumped them into the city’s “floating” or transient population. “They are not a floating population, and they number in the thousands,” she said.
In the long term, Juarez officials will also consider expanding interpretive services to transient Central American indigenous people who pass through or stay briefly in the city en route to the United States. International advocacy groups say migrants speaking the Maya dialect are often targeted by criminals, and need to make themselves understood when asking for help.
“It’s something we need to work on and it’s part of our work around human and migrant rights,” Mora said. “Yes, we will. We have plans. The goal is to identify problems and create solutions” for the city’s Aboriginal people.