In 2015, Teresa Matías joined Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Holy Spirit is the only Catholic church in the area that provides a service in Spanish, and it’s where a majority of the growing Latino community congregates every week in Huntsville.

Matías is a single, working immigrant mother from Guatemala. Spanish is her second language. Her first language is a Mayan language called Qʼanjobʼal. She grew up Catholic in Guatemala, so after she joined Holy Spirit Catholic Church, she decided to baptize her five sons.

The strangers at the church quickly became like a family to Matías and soon, a handful of members became godparents to her sons. The godparents of her youngest son were a married couple who was well-known in the church. They took a special liking to her child and started spending more and more time with him.

Over the next year, a series of events would begin to unravel that would permanently change Matías’ life. The couple began to take her to see a lawyer and eventually, the three of them went to see a judge. Eventually, Matías gave up complete parental rights to her youngest son.

But in all these meetings, Matías, who knows only a few words in English, never had a proper interpreter.

Latino USA heads to Huntsville, where there’s a small, but growing Latino population, including immigrants who speak primarily indigenous languages, to chronicle Teresa Matías’ story: of how she ended up making a life-changing decision without full consent and proper translation.

Featured illustration by Alex Charner.

This episode was originally broadcast on May 31, 2019.

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4 thoughts on “A Child Lost in Translation

  1. Was anything ever done to help Teresa find or connect to a lawyer? This story was heartbreaking and there were no updates to what has happened since it posted just a vague she can’t afford a lawyer comment.

    How is telling her story and not helping her fight this not just using her as well?! Telling people story’s should also mean you assume some type of role in assisting them. These story’s are real life for the people living them not entertainment.

  2. Is there an update to this story? Is there a fund to assist with lawyer fees if she still has not been able to obtain one?

  3. This broke my heart and shocked me. I hope her and her children are okay and that she will be reunited with her youngest.

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