A California radio station is battling coronavirus misinformation among indigenous farmworkers


“Greetings to all people tuning in to Radio Indígena 94.1 FM,” stated a voice coming from the radio’s audio system in Spanish. Moments later, he heard one other voice talking in Mixteco — considered one of a number of indigenous languages from southern Mexico.


“I used to really feel ashamed of talking Mixteco,” Cervantes Alvarado, 40, whose first language is Mixteco, stated in Spanish. “At any time when I hearken to (the radio), I really feel happy with who I’m and don’t desire my kids to neglect that.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit america, the hosts of Radio Indígena had been among the many first individuals who may clarify Covid-19 to indigenous Mexican farmworkers in Ventura County, due to their capability to change between Spanish, Mixteco and different indigenous languages. Because the months handed, they took to debunking coronavirus misinformation.
The Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), a gaggle that runs the radio station and helps indigenous households in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, estimates that about 20,000 individuals from southern Mexico stay within the space. Most of them are farmworkers and a few solely communicate their indigenous language.
A 2015-2016 national survey by the US Department of Labor signifies that 77% of farmworkers are extra snug talking Spanish, 21% English and 1% want an indigenous language. The employees who had been interviewed had been fluent in at the least 10 completely different indigenous languages.

Radio Indígena was created in 2014 as an arm of MICOP to offer details about labor rights and well being applications to indigenous Mexican farmworkers of their native languages. It began streaming exhibits on-line and has expanded to FM radio, iOS and Android apps and a call-in quantity.


At the moment, the station broadcasts 40 hours of authentic exhibits in Spanish and the indigenous languages of Mixteco, Zapoteco and Purépecha. They concentrate on quite a lot of subjects, together with immigrant rights, home violence prevention and indigenous historical past. Genevieve Flores-Haro, affiliate director for MICOP, estimates that about 3,000 individuals hearken to the station each day.

Bernardino Almazán, a producer who used to work choosing cilantro, stated one of many greatest challenges within the early months of the pandemic was explaining what Covid-19 was. The Mixteco language, he says, dates again at the least 2,000 years and doesn’t embody fashionable medical terminology.


“We needed to discover different methods to speak in regards to the virus, give examples of comparable sicknesses, clarify the signs,” Almazán stated.

The station has since then produced a collection of Covid-19 public service bulletins about well being protocols, faculty closures, worth gauging and psychological well being.

Almazán and his colleagues have discovered themselves debunking false information and rumors about the price of Covid-19 assessments and the contents of a coronavirus vaccine in growth.
For instance, they needed to make clear that undocumented immigrants who search medical consideration attributable to Covid-19 would not be affected by the “public charge” rule, a federal provision that makes it tougher for immigrants to acquire authorized standing in the event that they use public advantages like meals stamps and housing vouchers.
One other conspiracy principle that the hosts have addressed is whether or not Microsoft founder Invoice Gates needed to make use of a possible coronavirus vaccine to implant monitoring gadgets in individuals. Gates addressed the rumors final July throughout a CNN global coronavirus town hall.

“We advocate that they do not take note of gossip circulating in social media or to individuals who could not have correct data,” Francisco Didier Ulloa, the station’s coordinator and Almazán’s co-host, stated in Spanish. “Our responsibility is to report responsibly.”

Arcenio López, government director of MICOP, stated Radio Indígena has been essential to informing indigenous communities in Ventura County about Covid-19.


Along with operating the radio station, MICOP connects to the neighborhood, largely via door-to-door interactions. That works higher than distributing pamphlets as a result of many individuals who work at California farms come from rural communities in Mexico with widespread Spanish illiteracy.

At a Covid-19 testing location, López says, a lady could not learn her outcomes as a result of the doc was solely in English and Spanish. She had examined optimistic for the virus, he stated. The group has since created movies in a number of languages displaying find out how to make a face masks, wash your palms correctly and get tested for Covid-19.

“It might be ideally suited that everybody learns English however the actuality is that there is individuals that will by no means be taught English and there is individuals who have simply arrived to this nation,” López stated. “All of them should have very important data of their native language, it is a fundamental human proper.”


Farmworkers are at hightened threat of Covid-19, advocates say

Lots of Radio Indígena’s listeners are Latinos and farmworkers, two teams which have been disproportionately impacted by coronavirus outbreaks in a number of states.

The variety of Covid-19 circumstances amongst Black and Hispanic children and throughout all ages is greater than different teams. Black and Hispanic individuals contaminated with the virus additionally died at disproportionately higher rates over the summer time.

The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has stated that farmworkers face a selected threat of an infection from being in shut contact with each other in fields, in shared housing or transport, and due to restricted entry to scrub water for hygiene.

He's considered an 'essential' worker. What he feels, though, is underpaid and at risk.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in April that mandates two weeks of paid sick go away for farmworkers or meals sector staff topic to a quarantine or isolation order or medical directive. Newsom additionally allotted $100 million to subsidize child-care prices for important staff.
In Ventura County, the state’s Central Coast county of about 850,000 individuals, Latinos make nearly 45% of the population. As of November 25, there have been 18,394 individuals contaminated with Covid-19 there and almost 54% had been Latinos, in accordance with data from county health officials. It is unclear how many individuals are of indigenous Mexican heritage.

There have been 496 farmworkers who examined optimistic for the virus, the county stated.

Earlier this yr, the county’s agricultural fee distributed about 1 million face masks to farming websites after a housing facility for farmworkers in Oxnard noticed a big Covid-19 outbreak, CNN affiliate KEYT reported.

López, MICOP’s government director, stated farmworkers have skilled a dramatic lack of work through the pandemic. Those that have jobs wrestle with lack of entry to handwashing amenities and must work in shut proximity with numerous individuals. Many who’re employed, he says, really feel like they do not have a selection.

Some would sleep in vehicles to keep away from exposing their households, López says, and others can be afraid to inform their employers they had been sick with Covid-19 as a result of they did not need to lose their jobs.


“For those who speak to a farmworker, many would let you know they’re simply grateful that they’ve a job as a result of they stay paycheck to paycheck,” López stated.

Up to now two weeks, advocacy teams have been calling for a committee to develop pointers for the prioritization and allocation of a Covid-19 vaccine to prioritize farmworkers.

“Farm staff have to be prioritized and still have entry to factual, scientific details about vaccines within the languages and indigenous dialects they communicate,” stated Diana Tellefson Torres, government director of United Farm Workers Foundation, in a press release.

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