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This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian Country Today, and High Country News.

When Cielo Magdalena Gómez López, Maya Tseltal, first arrived in the U.S. from Mexico in 2005, she was surprised at how many other Mayan people she met in her new home of Tampa, Florida. Trained to teach English as a second language, Gómez López quickly became the de facto interpreter, translator, and advocate for the Indigenous Mexican community in Tampa, many of who spoke Tsotsil and Tseltal but no English or Spanish. “It was like taking care of my little brothers and sisters,” she said. “We were all going through the same struggles.”

Now, Gómez López works at the Mexican Consulate in Orlando, where she provides translation and interpretation services in an official capacity, but she says much more support for Indigenous migrants is needed. 

From the moment Indigenous migrants and refugees arrive in the U.S. they face obstacles. Border crossings rarely have Indigenous language interpretation available, leaving migrants vulnerable and often unaware of the options and services availa... Read more

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