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City Strengthening Spanish Translation Services For Non-English Speakers

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
(File Photo) Graciella Sanchez, executive director of the Esparanza Peace and Justice Center addresses the San Antonio City Council

In its 2017 budget, the City of San Antonio is formalizing Spanish translation of certain city documents, agendas and council meetings. While the city has offered Spanish services during some meetings by request it will soon have a dedicated person hired to translate for Spanish-only speakers.



“Does this group require translation?” asked Mayor Ivy Taylor at an August 3rd City Council Citizens to Be Heard meeting. At the podium was Maria Soto, a hotel worker. “Buenos noches, mi nombrees Maria Soto,” she began. A friend next to her said, “Good evening, my name is Maria Soto.”


It can be difficult for San Antonians who only speak Spanish to engage in City Council meetings. In some instances, District 1 Councilman Robert Trevino said, a translator is not there. “We had folks showing-up at City Hall requiring translators here at council session and no one in sight to translate,” he said.


The city has translators available upon request most of the time. However, at Trevino’s request, $225,000 is included in the now-approved budget for a full time translator and translation services. “This is a two-thirds Hispanic town, in fact, quite frankly 30 percent of that group only speaks Spanish, and when you talk about proposing this the first and most immediate reaction I get from most folks is ‘I thought we already did that,'” he added.


Starting in January, agendas and supporting documents will be available in Spanish online before weekly work-sessions, council meetings where there is a vote, and also the Wednesday night Citizens to Be Heard.  Assistant City Manager Maria Villagomez says this person will be on-site to fully translate the meeting.


“We are trying to provide more materials and communications to our Hispanic community and encourage them to participate in local government.”


The city is also exploring how to broadcast the City Council’s televised meetings in Spanish by 2018.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules