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Racial Borderlands: Suburban Plantation Culture and 'Rancho California (por favor)'
Unformatted Document Text:  Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.17 workshops intended to train indigenous dialect-speaking translators for work in California courtrooms. These translation initiatives were launched to redress a series of judicial mistakes, in which a number of Mexican Mixtecos and Guatemalan Mayans were wrongly imprisoned when the U.S. court system mistakenly assumed that they could speak Spanish—when they could not. As a result of these cases of wrongful imprisonment, the offices of public defenders intended to make sure, first, that the rights of the accused were not abridged in any way; and second, that the indigenous migrants understood their rights. The Frente and Mayavision set up a series of indigenous interpreter workshops to train dialect speakers for the courts. But this process proved difficult and time-consuming, and workshops were held in the fields of La Cosecha Nuestra. These workshops staged surrogate trials, which utilized a “practice judge” (asking questions in English), a “practice lawyer” (who translated each remark from English to Spanish), an indigenous translator- trainee (who translated each line from Spanish to the Kanjobal or Mixteco dialects), and a “practice defendant” (who responded in Kanjobal or Mixteco). Each dialect response then had to be re- translated through the two other linguistic registers before it got back to the judge, all of which created a cumbersome and time-consuming process. 27 In some ways, the indigenous court projects and grass-roots press-conferences that followed reinforced just how central and crucial the use of space has become as a strategic arena for the indigenous migrant communities. The camp, garden, courtroom, and labor spaces that make up this world are, arguably, the very media—or means of expression—used by migrants who do not own their own land, or homes. I’d been looking for art and resistance in the wrong (aesthetic and social) categories. Mixtecos and Mayans who occupy open spaces (whether in utility right-of- ways in the campo, in no-man’s lands zoned as flood-plains, or in the courts) are also geographic performers. They learn, by necessity, to act-out in public, in any contact zones made accessible by those who own land.

Authors: Caldwell, John.
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Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.17
workshops intended to train indigenous dialect-speaking translators for work in California
courtrooms. These translation initiatives were launched to redress a series of judicial mistakes, in
which a number of Mexican Mixtecos and Guatemalan Mayans were wrongly imprisoned when the
U.S. court system mistakenly assumed that they could speak Spanish—when they could not. As a
result of these cases of wrongful imprisonment, the offices of public defenders intended to make
sure, first, that the rights of the accused were not abridged in any way; and second, that the
indigenous migrants understood their rights. The Frente and Mayavision set up a series of
indigenous interpreter workshops to train dialect speakers for the courts. But this process proved
difficult and time-consuming, and workshops were held in the fields of La Cosecha Nuestra. These
workshops staged surrogate trials, which utilized a “practice judge” (asking questions in English), a
“practice lawyer” (who translated each remark from English to Spanish), an indigenous translator-
trainee (who translated each line from Spanish to the Kanjobal or Mixteco dialects), and a “practice
defendant” (who responded in Kanjobal or Mixteco). Each dialect response then had to be re-
translated through the two other linguistic registers before it got back to the judge, all of which
created a cumbersome and time-consuming process.
27
In some ways, the indigenous court projects and grass-roots press-conferences that
followed reinforced just how central and crucial the use of space has become as a strategic arena
for the indigenous migrant communities. The camp, garden, courtroom, and labor spaces that
make up this world are, arguably, the very media—or means of expression—used by migrants who
do not own their own land, or homes. I’d been looking for art and resistance in the wrong (aesthetic
and social) categories. Mixtecos and Mayans who occupy open spaces (whether in utility right-of-
ways in the campo, in no-man’s lands zoned as flood-plains, or in the courts) are also geographic
performers. They learn, by necessity, to act-out in public, in any contact zones made accessible by
those who own land.


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