In the 2010 census, more than 685 thousand Latinxs in the US identified themselves as American Indian, a number that experts believe could actually be much higher. With Latin media predominantly in Spanish and English, this population has long lacked much-needed news and culture in their language. Enter Radio Indígena, a radio station hoping to serve indigenous communities from Mexico and Central America.
The radio station is one of the first to cater to indigenous Mexicans in the United States. Every week, it boasts 40 hours of original programming, from newscasts to educational talk shows to music. While content is primarily in Mixeco, there are also programs in Zapoteco, Triqui, Nahuatl, Spanish and more.
Radio Indígena is hosted and run by the Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), a nonprofit organization providing health outreach, humanitarian support and language interpretation to indigenous communities in California.
“There are very few ways for us to receive information in our own language,” Arcenio Lopez, executive director of MICOP and Radio Indígena, told NBC News.
He and his team started Radio Indígena in 2014. At the time, the community station was only available online. However, after three years of fundraising, the station made it to the FM airwaves in 2017.
In California, where thousands of indigenous migrants from southern Mexico have moved to in search of work after the soil erosion of ancestral farmlands in the Mixteca region, one-third of farm workers speak indigenous languages. Many of them don’t understand English or Spanish. For them, Radio Indígena is a lifeline, keeping them connected to life back home, informed of important immigration news in the US and entertained with music and cultural programs.
“Listening to it is a point of pride,” Josefino Alvarado, a California farm worker who grew up speaking Mixteco before moving to the US in 1997, told the news site. While the man is familiar with Spanish and English, the station helps him preserve his first language while giving him the opportunity to learn other indigenous languages.
According to UNESCO, almost half of Mixteco’s 50 dialects are either severely endangered or at risk of endangerment. Experts believe that migration and economic pressures, including finding paid work, has led to the extinction of indigenous languages in Mexico and Central America as well as when migrants from both regions are in the US.
One of the most popular programs on Radio Indígena is “Al Ritmo De Chilena,” an educational show that shares the history of a new indigenous culture each episode. The program, hosted by Delfina Santiago and Carmen Vasquez, airs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The women, who work at Ventura County flower farms and as a teacher’s assistant, respectively, do the unpaid show as a labor of love.
For them, researching history, keeping their language alive and connecting listeners to their roots offer them the most value. They say it’s empowering and instills much-needed pride in a community that has long been taught to feel ashamed of their language, culture and experiences.
“We’ve kept our languages hidden out of fear,” Santiago said, “but no longer.”
It’s 1970. Groans of discomfort permeate a Los Angeles County Hospital hallway as a Mexican-American woman is in labor. This is going to be her first child.
Little does she know that it’ll also be her last.
“This is an example of erasure,” director Kathryn Boyd-Batstone told mitú.
For Rosa, details a harrowing reality for many women of color in 1970s California. Inspired by the 1978 Madrigal v. Quilligan case, the story follows Eva, a mother faced with the pivotal decision to join the Madrigal Ten after discovering she was unknowingly sterilized.
Wanting to highlight each individual experience, Boyd-Batstone described her heroine as “a fictional composite character” inspired by multiple plaintiffs from the Madrigal Ten.
At first glance, Eva’s story prominently resembles the experience of plaintiff Melvina Hernández.
Hernández, at 23, signed a document that allegedly consented to an emergency C-section. Fearmongering by doctors and nurses highlighted a perceieved risk of mortality, pressuring her to sign a document she couldn’t read.
Four years later, she was informed that she had actually signed for a tubal ligation.
The history of eugenics is an ugly one, acting as a form of silent genocide.
In Eva’s case, medical professionals take advantage of her. Doctors and nurses took advantage of her language barrier and the pain of child labor.
The story, while historical, is relevant in the current context of the Trump era’s immigration policies.
Last year, an ICE nurse whistleblower reported the nonconsensual mass hysterectomies of migrant women detained at the border.
“Although the court case happened over fifty years ago, we are still in a time where reproductive rights are not respected,” Boyd-Batstone said. “This is not an issue of the past, and so the fight continues.”
A mistrust that remains prevalent in the 21st century.
The Madrigal Ten is a testament to the fight for reproductive rights and women of colors’ autonomy.
In 1975, Dolores Madrigal alongside nine other women filed a class-action lawsuit against L.A. County-USC Medical Center for the nonconsensual tubal ligations that occurred during child labor.
A complicated ordeal that received little funding, 26-year-old Chicana Civil Rights attorney Antonia Hernández impressively took on the case. Boyd-Batstone who read the court documents said, “it became obvious that at the time the hospital did not have adequate steps in place to make sure their patients could give informed consent.”
Dr. Karen Benker, the only physician to testify against the hospital, told the New York Times in 2016 that “voluntary informed consent” didn’t exist in the early 70s.
That is until after the National Research Act of 1974 following public outcry from the Tuskegee study.
Following Roe v. Wade, the Madrigal Ten case sought to end the forced sterilizations of women of color, define informed consent and provide consent forms in Spanish at a reading level individuals could understand.
In 2016 PBS released a documentary on the case called “No Más Bebes,” which greatly inspired Boyd-Batstone to create For Rosa.
“The main feeling that stuck with me after watching the documentary was how much strength it must have taken these women to face someone who tried to take their identity and demand accountability,” she said.
Validating women of color’s experiences was essential for Boyd-Batstone. While the film mirrors the malpractices of the medical industry, brought upon by systematic racism and bias, she also hopes that women who have felt “diminished or uneasy around doctors” find the courage to speak out.
For Rosa, sheds light on traditional themes of womanhood and Chicana feminism.
Simultaneously, the lawsuit took place during the rise in Chicana activism.
As tensions between mainstream white feminism and women of color peaked; Chicana activists put legislative reform and reproductive justice at the forefront. Furthermore, they brought awareness to discrimination as it intersects race, class, gender, and immigration.
Though on the sidelines, the case also harbored on the cultural question of defining femininity.
Worried for the state of her marriage, the correspondence of fertility with femininity felt dense. Heavily ingrained in machismo culture; the pain and frustration of no longer being able to conceive are palpable.
But the strength and courage to speak out defies all odds.
“As women, especially Latina women, I don’t think many stories show us how to do this,” Boyd-Batstone said. “So it was important to me to, one, honor the Madrigal Ten’s bravery but [to also] show young girls what it looks like to stand up and fight for your rights.”
Though it has been nearly 50 years since the Madrigal Ten case, the fight for women’s autonomy and reproductive rights is ongoing.
On June 7, 1978, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the USC Medical Center. Judge Jesse Curtis stated that miscommunication and language barriers resulted in unwanted sterilizations.
Nonetheless, the lawsuit’s impact was potent. The California Department of Health revised its sterilization guidelines to include a 72-hour waiting period and issued a booklet on sterilization in Spanish.
In 1979, California abolished its sterilization law after 70 years.
More than 20,000 people of various races and ethnicities were sterilized during this time.
For Rosa ends with archival footage of Dolores Madrigal and Antonia Hernández announcing the lawsuit. Nevertheless, its timely release is indicative of the continual demands for justice today.
Now more than ever we must remember the narratives of the Madrigal Ten, and other Black and Brown activists who continue to pave the way for change.
“My hope is that For Rosa humanizes the women so that whatever culture or race or gender you are, you can empathize with the women as human beings,” Boyd-Batstone said.
“My hope is that every person who watches understands that these Latina women are deserving of respect.”
Para Rosa (For Rosa) is available to stream on HBO Max.
La Virgen de Guadalupe means so much to so many. Especially the Latino community in Van Nuys, California, near Los Angeles, which is reeling after an important mural depicting La Virgen was vandalized overnight.
Although security cam footage captured an unknown man defacing the mural, the suspect is still at large and the community is asking for help in finding out who committed the vandalism.
A suspect was caught on camera destroying a mural with La Virgen de Guadalupe.
The community of Saint Elisabeth Church near Los Angeles is asking the community for prayers after a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe was vandalized on church grounds.
The parish’s security system recorded video footage of an unknown man dressed in black approaching the mural with a sledgehammer at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday morning. He can be seen smashing the tiles that make up Our Lady’s face several times before fleeing.
On Friday, April 23, Father Di Marzio led a prayer service, which was livestreamed on the parish Facebook page. Some 30 parishioners gathered to sing and pray a decade of the rosary in front of the mural, which is roped off with caution tape, while nearly 100 others joined online. In closing, Fr. Di Marzio encouraged parishioners to “continue to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us, and to touch the heart of the person who did this.”
Also on Friday, a local artist, Geo Rhodes, was scheduled to visit the mural and discuss a plan for repair, arranged by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We hope that soon we will restore the image, or have a new one more beautiful than the one we had before,” Fr. Di Marzio said.
La Virgen de Guadalupe is extremely important to the church.
The hand-painted tile mural stands between the church and the rectory. It was installed over 35 years ago as a “symbol of community unity,” said business manager Irma Ochoa. Each square tile was sponsored by a parish family. Overlooking a small altar, the mural has become a popular place for parishioners to pray and light candles, asking Our Lady for special blessings.
“I feel an unspeakable sadness,” said Fr. Antonio Fiorenza, who is in residence at the parish. “But I feel pity for the one who made this sacrilegious gesture. I pray for his conversion and for all those who show contempt to the Virgin Mary.”