LA's Indigenous communities advocate for vital interpretation services

Listen to the full audio story
Show Embed Code | Download the MP3

Members of different indigenous advocacy groups crowded into a small, sparse room in the Pico-Union Corridor Tuesday morning to push for more interpretation services for their communities.

The small panel had no audience, just a handful of Spanish media channels to inform about upcoming workshops aimed to connect members from indigenous communities across Los Angeles with city services.

Los Angeles is home to almost 10 percent of the nation's Latino population, but many of these residents hail from a variety of indigenous communities in Mexico and Central America. And though they live in these countries, many do not speak Spanish or English, making it extremely difficult to access public services and communicate with police.

"There are about 50,000 indigenous peoples living in L.A. County," said Odilia Romero of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations. "And it is said under California law that they should have interpreters they can understand."

Romero said that many of these residents are not able to call the police if they are victims of fraud, robbery or other crimes because of language barriers.

An even bigger problem, many do not even know these services are available to them.

But these communities, located primarily in the Pico-Union Corridor and South L.A., are expanding.

"They are migrating across the city and we are seeing them now in Westlake and Newton. They are buying homes and taking their language and cultures with them," said Los Angeles Police Lt. Al Labrada. "And it is imperative that we as a department learn about these communities and have ways to reach out and communicate with them."

Labrada says LAPD has just launched LAPD en Espagnol, but that still excludes thousands of the city's Latinos.

"If we had more translators in these languages who can get on the phone when there is a crime or incident and explain what is going on we would be way better off than where we are now," said Labrada.

Intercultural workshops between indigenous communities and the LAPD are becoming more popular. The next one is Oct. 7 and aims to fuse a connection between these often isolated communities and their public services.

While all language barriers will never be bridged for these communities, Romero and other members of the conference stressed the importance of preserving these cultures while allowing indigenous peoples' to live and communicate fairly in their new one, Los Angeles.

You can see pictures of the conference here