In this Dec. 21, 2016 photo, Alex Ramirez edits images of the only community-oriented TV show in Spanish in the southeast of South Dakota in his studio in Sioux Falls, S. D., Ramirez, who on a voluntary basis, translates in Spanish news stories of the town and announcements, recently bought airtime with a friend and produce only the community-focused TV show in Spanish in the region. (AP Photo/Regina Garcia Cano)
In this Dec. 21, 2016 photo, Alex Ramirez edits images of the only community-oriented TV show in Spanish in the southeast of South Dakota in his studio in Sioux Falls, S. D., Ramirez, who on a voluntary basis, translates in Spanish news stories of the town and announcements, recently bought airtime and produce only the community-focused TV show in Spanish in the region. (AP Photo/Regina Garcia Cano)
SIOUX FALLS, S. D. – When Sioux Falls resident Alex Ramirez sees a news story or a city notice about road closures, or a building collapse — he makes a copy, translates the text into Spanish and posts on Facebook for free.
He and a friend also bought TV airtime is too short and produce only the community-oriented Spanish language show in South Dakota’s largest city, where Latinos make up about 5 percent of the population.
At first, his goal was to inform non-English speakers, and connect them to organizations and departments of the government. But with the hostile immigration rhetoric of President-elect, Donald Trump sometimes feel unwelcome in the US, Ramirez says his work is about the unity.
“It is very important that we stay together,” said the 49-year-old, who legally immigrated from Mexico when he was 17, “and if for some reason we can’t support other people, we have to find ourselves and do business with each other and help each other in our community.”
Yeshua Prestan, a Colombian native who moved to the US. as a refugee and is now a citizen, hardly understands English and is visually impaired. He sometimes asks his children to read to him the Facebook messages — which have recently been detailed planned listening session with Sioux Falls mayor, the weather forecast and road closures, after the collapse of a three storey building in the town.
“That is information that I could not open, not even in the English language, because I can’t read,” Prestan said in Spanish.
In the past, it was a challenge for him to find useful, reliable information, because he can’t watch TV and the information that is offered by a number of print outlets is “very basic” or about the subject that he is “genuinely not interested in,” he said.
Some cities, including Minneapolis, to use a Google service to get an approximate translation of their website content. In Sioux Falls, an executive order requires the use of a certified translation service if content has to be produced in a language other than English. If a resident needs urgent help with translation, the city can get an interpreter over the phone, assistant city attorney Ryan Sage said in a statement, and “for a meeting or an appointment at a later time or date,” a person’s interpreter is, in most cases.
The 30-minute TV show, which is broadcast on Friday night, has featured segments with a Spanish-speaking physician who has examined the consequences of poorly treated diabetes and a police officer who — in Spanish — gave the viewers tips on how to communicate with officials when there is a language barrier exists.
Ten episodes broadcast since October, with subtitles in English to make it accessible for Hispanics who do not speak Spanish and subtitles in Spanish as the interviewees speak English.
Ramirez and his friend, Raul Guajardo, maxed out their credit cards to buy airtime for a year. But they also received a $6,000 grant from the regional health Avera Health, which the vice-president of public relations, Lindsey Meyers, said that was done to help improve “access and information for disadvantaged groups.”
That money was used for a partial repayment of themselves, buy needed equipment and pay for two anchors. Guajardo, is an anchor, but not yet paid.
Ramirez is a native of Mexico, in the western state of Michoacan. He still remembers his first day at a high school in Berkeley, California, where he did not understand a word with his teachers and classmates said. These days, he is the owner of a multimedia services company and sits on the boards of directors of several organizations.
Ramirez hopes that the TV show and Facebook page will help expose the Sioux Falls area, to the diversity of the Latino’s. Prestan noted that many falsely assume they are all Mexicans, and, in his experience, the treatment of people are bad when they hear Spanish being spoken.
“It’s like people from another planet or another galaxy, and they think we come here to steal from them,” he said.
With Trump soon to take office, many Latinos are worried about the future, because many people don’t understand exactly how the federal government works and how the immigration laws are enforced, Ramirez said. He sees his projects, which also reach parts of Iowa and Minnesota, as a way to get people connected and to steal their fears.
“We talk with them about the community and how the community works, and we make them feel a little bit better, because we let them know that not only because he is going to be the president, he is going to change the way we do things here in our community,” he said.
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