Phoenix – Osvaldo Salas speaks little English. He lives in the suburbs of Phoenix and depends on television in Spanish and on his family and friends to find out about the coronavirus since state and municipal authorities do not publish anything in Spanish on their portals.
“Unfortunately, here in Arizona they turn their backs on Hispanics,” said Salas, who works in a restaurant kitchen. “Many of us here speak Spanish and unfortunately we are pushed aside.”
Authorities across the country are struggling to report the dangers of the virus, but they do so mostly in English. Your messages may not be reaching millions of Spanish speakers who do not speak English well.RELATED
Activist groups and the Spanish-language press try to fill that gap as cities and states say they will translate recommendations for handwashing and the impact of school closings into the country’s second most spoken language. The Univision and Telemundo networks are dedicating more time to the virus.
In Arizona, where 30% of its residents are Hispanic, the Department of Health Services has a portal with updated information about the coronavirus, but there is nothing in Spanish.
Its director Cara Christ said Monday that they were translating the updates. But Wednesday was nothing yet and the department did not respond to requests for comment. There have been no written reports in Spanish, although health officials have offered interviews in Spanish to Hispanic media.
“This happens very fast, there are news almost daily,” explained Christ. “We are trying to translate everything into Spanish and working to publish material in Spanish on our social networks.”
Salas, who is supporting his wife and four children, one of whom has a genetic disorder that requires permanent attention, fears what could happen. She says that the restaurant where she works will close and that some schools that have closed are offering free food, but she doesn’t know if the one in her neighborhood is one of them. No one has said anything to him.
Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a civil rights organization, said he is not surprised that some states do not report in Spanish, especially those like Arizona, where immigrants and Hispanics are targets of laws. and raids that seek to contain illegal immigration.
He said Hispanics and immigrant communities have always faced obstacles in the health field, including fear of seeking treatment for their immigration status.
“The lack of bilingual material exacerbates some of those issues that lead to unequal access to information and services,” said Saenz.
To help, a group of activists offers workers at a day laborer center in Pasadena, California, information in Spanish to help them reduce the danger of being infected and to be prepared in case they get sick or the government orders confinement. . The National Day Laborer Organizing Network organizes via streaming a radio program on social networks in which it makes recommendations on hygiene, how to talk about the virus to children and reports on the pronounced decrease in hiring of day laborers that is perceived in the center.
“I prefer information in Spanish because that is our language,” said Carlos, a day laborer who was looking for information in the center and who did not want to give his last name for fear that the authorities would look for him. “They advise us on what to do, how to prepare for this, especially those of us who have children.”
Noticias Telemundo says it is incorporating a national newscast focused on the coronavirus. It is also expanding its morning show and its noon newscast to include reports about the virus.
Disclosure of information in the Hispanic community has had ups and downs.
The national government has not done much, but the Centers for Disease Control (CCE) have information about the coronavirus in Spanish on their website, although it is difficult to find. Others say it takes too long to update that information in Spanish. For example, the Spanish CCE Twitter account has nothing about the coronavirus and only retweeted on Tuesday a message about the virus from the CCE Environmental Service account.
In states with a large Hispanic presence like Florida, many of the press conferences of state officials are bilingual and the state health department has Spanish-speaking agents available 24 hours a day at its virus call center, according to its spokesman Alberto Moscoso.
In New Mexico, a day after the Associated Press asked the government about the lack of information in Spanish on the health department’s website, a site appeared in Spanish – which is difficult to find – and Governor Michelle Luján Grisham tweeted about the issue in Spanish. At the top of the page, in small letters, there is a link with updated information in Spanish. The most Hispanic state in the nation has had, at every press conference it gives, officials who give interviews in Spanish.
The state of Washington, which is the one with the most deaths in the United States, has information and bulletins in English and Spanish on the portal of its health department. The department hired a translation firm and freelance translators to offer information in about 40 languages, according to its spokeswoman Kathleen Meehan.
“Our message doesn’t work if people can’t understand it,” Meehan said.
In Sonoma County, California’s wine region, authorities provide information in both languages, broadcasting it live on Facebook.
And in El Paso, Texas, where approximately 80% of its residents are Hispanic, authorities have held press conferences in both languages. Mayor Dee Margo communicates the news in Spanish and English on his Facebook page.
Raquel Terán, a lawyer and activist from Arizona, said she asked authorities two weeks ago if they would offer information in Spanish. He added that now that schools are closing and people are being encouraged to stay home, it is vital to give information in languages other than English.
The community, he maintained, “wants to hear a voice that inspires confidence, someone trustworthy who speaks Spanish. Thats the reality”.