Community-Based Research

ELA research, as much as possible, is community-driven, participatory, and grows from the ground up — research for and with communities, rather than on communities.
ELA Community Expert Maximiliano Bazan discusses language and health in the Mixtec community.

ELA research, as much as possible, is community-driven, participatory, and grows from the ground up — research for and with communities, rather than on communities, see our page of reports, talks, and publications.

For more about our community-based research initiative to document the languages and stories of Himalayan New Yorkers, see our Voices of the Himalaya project.

For more about our community-based language mapping work, see our language maps of New York City.

ELA has been the only NYC-based organization, as far as we are aware, to study the issues faced by monolingual speakers of Indigenous Latin American languages in New York. We have also carried out extensive interviews with various Indigenous communities on which means of communication are used most commonly for obtaining news and information.

ELA and the NYC Department of Health

Beginning with discussions in 2016, ELA partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for the first-ever study focused on the demographics, communities, communication, and health of Indigenous Latin American communities in New York.

ELA’s partnership with the Department grew out of an initiative entitled Proyecto Comunidades Florecientos (PCF), launched by Thelma Carrillo and Krystal Reyes of the Division of Family and Child Health, which sought to better understand and serve traditionally neglected segments of the Latino population in NYC. Our project aimed to go even further to understand the most marginalized segments of this population: Indigenous peoples of Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru, who settled in New York in considerable numbers during a period of mass migration beginning in the 1990s.

Despite large numbers there is still no basic demographic information on these communities, nor can we find information about their livelihoods, experiences and challenges in the city, outside of anecdotal remarks and informal observations. Remedying this was seen as an urgent priority given that Indigenous Latin Americans appear to occupy some of the most precarious niches of the local labor market – construction, take-out delivery, and food preparation in kitchens and delis – and appear to be disproportionately underserved in areas of health, education, and other social services.

Following a participatory action research model, the resulting project was led by ELA-trained community experts, all members of 6 major Indigenous Latin American ethnolinguistic groups (Garifuna, K’iche’, Kichwa, Mam, Mixtec, Nahuatl) now living in New Yor and fluent in the relevant Indigenous languages. The community experts both played a key role in shaping the project and conducted the 30 in-depth qualitative interviews with members of the 6 communities that formed the core of the project.

These were some of the key findings: (i) Indigenous Latin American communities in the New York area are substantial and growing, but often remain dispersed, invisible, and without access to services, including translation and interpretation; (ii) Speakers of Indigenous languages are maintaining their languages in NYC to a degree, including through digital communication tools and transnational ties, but intergenerational transmission is faltering; (iii) Reported health challenges in this relatively young population, many with children, include diabetes, alcoholism, a worsening diet, and pervasive marginalization. Hundreds of pages of interview transcripts have been transcribed and translated, and a 50-page report prepared for NYCDOHMH.

More information about this work and key findings — and other related work, connecting food, health, language, and community — is being made public when possible. Project personnel have spoken about the project and its results at the NYC Department of Health, Memorial Sloan Kettering, major universities, and other venues