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Research study underway in SLO County to get accurate count of migrants of indigenous descent

The goal is to improve access to healthcare by learning about the common barriers migrants of Latinx indigenous descent face on a daily basis.
Posted at 6:37 PM, May 22, 2023

A research effort is underway to get an accurate count of how many migrants of indigenous descent are working in San Luis Obispo County.

The goal is to improve access to healthcare by learning about the common barriers this population faces on a daily basis.

“There’s a lot of Mixtec community members here, but knowing that there is a presence is not nearly enough to be able to address the inequities that exist in that community,” said Professor Mario Espinoza-Kulick (PhD), Ethnic Studies faculty member at Cuesta College.

There is now a collaboration between Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), Cuesta College Ethnic Studies, and the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department to get an accurate count of this population.

“This is the first time in SLO County that there is an indigenous enumeration study for specific Latinx indigenous communities, meaning if your family is indigenous to Latin America, anywhere from Mexico to Central America,” Professor Espinoza-Kulick added. 

One of the main Mexican indigenous populations in San Luis Obispo County is Mixteco, but there are more groups.

“We're also seeing that there are folks that are Purépecha background which is from Michoacan […] and also Zapotec,” Espinoza-Kulick explained.

The professor said this research project is thanks to a $100,000 grant from SLO County Public Health.

“Our hope is to be able to identify if they speak in an indigenous language, if they identify as indigenous,” said Ana Huynh, MICOP program director. “In addition, [we] also want to learn — what are the barriers for accessing equitable healthcare?”

The interviews will be done in multiple languages.

“We have begun our interview process in the beginning of May, and so we have completed 45 to date,” said Professor Espinoza-Kulick. “We need to complete 300 by July 31st.”

Some of the questions in the survey include:

“What language do you prefer to receive your health materials — English, Spanish, Mixtec, or any of the indigenous languages?” said Professor Espinoza-Kulick. “That information is vital for our public health professionals so that they're adequately responding to the needs of everyone in our community, including folks who don't speak English or are Latin indigenous.”

The goal is also to gather information oftentimes not included in the Census.

“It is door to door; it is by invitation only,” Huynh explained. “Again, we want to get as much diversity as possible. We want to be able to capture as many communities as possible.”

Personal information gathered is confidential.

“Taking the survey is a way to give voice to your presence here and directly confront bias by counting yourself because you deserve to be counted,” Espinoza-Kulick added.

People who participate in the survey will get a $50 gift card. The interview takes about an hour.

Researchers will start analyzing the data collected after July 31, 2023.

If you want to participate, you can reach out to survey coordinators Silvano Vazquez at (805) 978-6132 or Susana Arce at (805) 978-7542.