Skip to content

Obscure Mayan language leaves justice tongue-tied

March 19, 2010

TAMPA — He was 28. She was 11. Her parents said they gave consent, claiming cultural norms of the Guatemalan highlands. But in Dover, Florida, a little girl with a baby raises questions.

When deputies came, Teodoro Pablo-Ramirez understood only some of what they said, according to his lawyer. He speaks no English and little Spanish — just the Mayan tongue of Mam.

The indigenous language, understood by few interpreters, has stymied court cases across the country. One interpreting service in Washington resorted to recruiting a Mam speaker out of a jail lobby.

In Hillsborough Circuit Court, two cases, both too serious to dismiss, are stalled for lack of a Mam translator. In one, a 4-year-old Wimauma girl was raped. The details are locked inside her mother, who speaks only Mam. And last year, Pablo-Ramirez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, before the judge granted a motion for retrial.

The court could provide only Spanish interpreters.

In Spanish, the word “trial” is juicio.

In Mam:

Tun txi´ jun xjal twitz aj kawil…

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: