Guatemalan-Maya Center

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A group of Lake Worth high schoolers who call themselves the “Mayan Girls” have been working to translate important information — everything from vaccination information to hurricane awareness — into Mayan languages.

The girls mostly translate into Q’anjob’al, a language spoken primarily in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. It’s the most common Mayan language in Palm Beach County, where Guatemalan Mayans make up a sizable portion of Jupiter and Lake Worth’s immigrant populations.

Madeline Fox / WLRN

In Lake Worth, immigrants and the nonprofits who serve them are gearing up for rumored raids by immigration enforcement this weekend.

Some people have heard about the possible raids this weekend through the news, or from friends and neighbors.

Two high school volunteers with the Guatemalan-Maya Center are trying to spread the word even further. They sent text messages to more than 1,000 people who have come to the Center for help in the past, to let them know immigration raids are rumored this weekend.

Courtesy of the Guatemalan-Maya Center

It’s surreal for Fr. Frank O’Loughlin to see a video of a straight-faced Policarpia Gaspar Xuncax talking about the Guatemalan-Maya Center, a nonprofit serving immigrants that they co-founded in Lake Worth.

“In real life, she couldn’t make it through two sentences without laughing,” he said.

Her sense of humor and her passion for education loom large in the stories family, friends and community members tell about the woman they knew as Poli.

Peter Haden / WLRN.org

For more than 50 years, Father Frank O’Laughlin has helped protect and promote the most vulnerable immigrants and refugees in South Florida. The Roman Catholic priest will be honored Friday night for his human rights legacy.

Peter Haden / WLRN.org

Florida Congresswoman Lois Frankel recently toured the U.S. southern border, talking to undocumented parents and children separated by President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

During a forum this month at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth, Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, heard how that border policy has begun to touch the Florida peninsula. Frankel interviewed a woman from Guatemala whose cousin was one of the migrants stopped at the border this year and separated from her child – a 10-year-old boy.

Peter Haden / WLRN

A Palm Beach County organization is gathering aid for Guatemalans in need after the eruption of Guatemala's Fuego Volcano Sunday. 

Rowan Moore Gerety / WLRN

“Our people are very, very casual about mosquitoes,” says Father Frank O’Loughlin, director of the Guatemalan-Maya Center, of the community the organization serves in and around Lake Worth.

The Guatemalan-Maya Center, Lake Worth

The Maya have many cool nicknames. The Greeks of the New World. Men of Maize. But you can add a more unfortunate moniker – the Children of Scorched Earth – to explain why they’re suddenly one of Florida’s fastest-growing immigrant communities.

The Maya are the largest indigenous group in the Americas, descendants of the glorious pre-Columbian civilization that occupied southern Mexico and northern Central America. Most live in Guatemala – where in recent decades they’ve faced one violent plague after another.