Why Latino Communities Need Indigenous Medical Interpreters

With 41 million native Spanish speakers in the United States, it should come as no surprise that Spanish-speaking medical interpreters are always in demand. However, a growing number of Latinos, primarily from Southern Mexico and Guatemala, have different linguistic needs. That’s because people who belong to indigenous groups may speak Spanish as a second language—or not at all. And this language barrier poses a threat to COVID-19 vaccination efforts within Latino communities.


The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos


Latinos have been hit hard by COVID-19. Despite making up only 18% of the population, they make up 26% of the deaths. They’re also hospitalized at four times the rate of White Americans. Why? Because several factors such as a higher percent of essential workers, multi-generational households, and pre-existing conditions have created the perfect conditions for it to spread.


Yet there’s evidence that Latinos who belong to indigenous groups may be even more likely to contract the disease. In 2020, UCSF conducted an antibody study in a predominately Latino neighborhood in Oakland, California. While 9.8% of the overall population had antibodies, 28.6% of Mayan-speaking Latinos had them. That means vaccine outreach in communities with indigenous speakers must include support for those languages to be successful.


La Clínica de La Raza: A Vaccination Success Story


As a vaccination clinic headquartered in Oakland, California has shown, access to interpreters who speak indigenous languages make all the difference. La Clínica de La Raza offers assistance in Mayan languages such as Mam, K’iche, and Q’eqchi at their 32 locations. Since they opened on March 4th, they’ve administered 2,000 vaccines per week.


The initiative came about in response to the rising number of Mayan residents. (They’re one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in Oakland). Onsite interpreters arrive on Thursdays to meet the community’s linguistic needs.


Now, given that indigenous speaking medical interpreters are in short supply, you may be wondering how other clinics can provide the same service. Here’s where the Boostlingo interpreting platform comes in.


How Boostlingo Can Help


With Boostlingo, you can quickly connect with a medical interpreter either over-the-phone (OPI) or via video remote, no matter where you’re located. Plus, we provide interpreting support for indigenous languages such as Mixteco Bajo, Mixteco Alto, and Quechua through our Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN).


What to find out if Boostlingo is right for you? Start your free trial today!

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