While most of Uvalde, Texas, residents are Latino and commonly speak Spanish at home, they were excluded from important information regarding their own community immediately following the horrific mass shooting that stole the lives of 19 children and two of their teachers last month.
“Uvalde is a largely Latino community,” tweeted journalist Maria E. Aguilera on May 26. “At a press conference earlier today about the shooting, authorities said nothing in Spanish and did not address any Spanish-speaking journalists.” In the days that followed, officials continued to provide information only in English, numerous reports said.
“It is unconscionable that public safety officials are neglecting to provide critical information in Spanish to a predominately Spanish-speaking community,” House members say in a June 10 letter to the Texas Department of Public Safety. They are urging the department to provide updates and future information in Spanish.
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“As you are aware, Uvalde is a predominately Latino community, with extensive Mexican American roots,” write Joaquin Castro, Raúl Grijalva, Norma Torres, Chuy García, and Veronica Escobar. Both Castro and Escobar are from Texas. “Unfortunately, authorities in Texas have only provided information pertaining to the shooting in English and have gone as far as ignoring multiple requests to provide remarks in Spanish, including at press conferences.” This is a community where more than 80% of residents are Latino and more than half speak some Spanish at home.
Of course, what use is official information if it's delivered in Spanish but is just flat-out untrue? As lawmakers say in their letter and statements, and Daily Kos has previously noted, officials’ timeline of how the tragedy unfolded was in question almost right away. “Texas law enforcement’s story on what happened in Uvalde disintegrates as facts emerge,” Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter wrote on May 27. Texas Department of Public Safety “walked back a statement that a teacher had propped open a door used by the shooter to enter the school,” The Texas Tribune reported on May 31.
“Initial claims and narratives are inconsistent, and these inconsistencies make it more crucial that accurate information is provided to all community members in their preferred language in a timely manner,” lawmakers continue. “As investigations continue, all Uvalde residents deserve to know the full details of this horrifying tragedy.”
“The tragedy in Uvalde did not discriminate between English and Spanish speakers,” Escobar said in the statement. “The troubling amount of disinformation and misinformation surrounding the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary and gun violence more generally needs to be countered with accurate and consistent material provided by trustworthy sources in the predominate languages of the community impacted.”
“Uvalde’s Mexican American identity is a fundamental part of the story of this tragedy,” Castro said. “As the community grapples with the aftermath of the shooting, Texas authorities must put their needs at the center of our state’s response. The Texas Department of Public Safety’s refusal to provide bilingual information on their investigation is insulting and wrong.” In light of “conflicting accounts” from authorities, Castro on May 26 urged an FBI investigation “to examine the timeline of events around the Uvalde school shooting and the law enforcement response.”
“I urge the FBI to use its maximum authority to thoroughly examine the timeline of events and the law enforcement response and to produce a full, timely, and transparent report on your findings,” he wrote. “Your agency must ensure that the American people have a complete and comprehensive account of how this tragedy occurred.”
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