JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Migrants from all over the world have come to Juarez in the past three years on their way to the United States. They speak Creole, Portuguese, Turkish and other tongues but their presence here is fleeting.
Now city officials are trying to accommodate a non-Spanish speaking population that has grown by the thousands in 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 of them here,” said Juarez Councilwoman Patricia Mendoza, who spearheaded the creation of a commission to facilitate access to government services for members of Mazahua, Mixtec, Raramuri and Huichol communities in Juarez.
The commission’s first job will be to avail translation and interpretation services to these tribes so they can get basic services and documents, and alert authorities to crimes committed against them.
“It’s not about putting on ethnic festivals or events. We want to address the basic daily needs of these communities, make sure they get assistance and support in dealing with the government. We know it is difficult for them to understand language and process. This is something totally new and totally positive and totally permanent,” said Karen Mora, a Social Development Department official helping get the commission off the ground.
Mendoza says Indigenous people in Mexico have been traditionally discriminated. She worries language and cultural barriers may be preventing them from reporting not only acts of discrimination but crimes as well. Juarez, for instance, fields an estimated 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 councilwoman said. “Everyone has to know their rights so they can be part of society.”
City officials would like the commission to be composed of members of the tribes so that they can do the interpretations and show cultural sensitivity. Mendoza said some Indigenous families have been in Juarez for 20 to 30 years, and their bilingual children who, nonetheless, retain their culture would be perfect for the job.
Mendoza doesn’t know exactly how many Indigenous people live in Juarez because the last census grouped them in the city’s “floating” or transient population. “They’re not a floating population, and they’re in the thousands,” she said.
In the long run, Juarez officials also will consider expanding interpretation services to the transient Central American Indigenous populations that pass through or remain briefly in the city on their way to the U.S. International advocacy groups say Mayan-dialect speaking migrants are often targeted by criminals, and need to make themselves understood when seeking help.
“That is something we have to work on and that is part of our work regarding human and migrant rights,” Mora said. “Yes, we will do it. We have plans. The goal is to identify the problems and create solutions” for Indigenous people in the city.