We are excited to announce the launch of Tumil El Tímpano, an initiative developed with and for the Bay Area’s Maya Mam communities. Every week, our team produces Mam-language dispatches with news, information, and resources relevant to the Bay Area’s Mam communities, presented by Tumil El Tímpano host, Martha Calmo Ramirez. You can find the latest videos on Facebook and on our website.
Tumil El Tímpano – which means “news and information from El Tímpano” in Mam – like all of our strategies, emerged through a process of listening to learn how community-based media could address gaps in information, resources, and local journalism. Its development is the result of several years of outreach with Maya Mam immigrants and collaboration with community leaders and grassroots organizations.
The Bay Area is home to one of the largest indigenous Mam communities outside of Guatemala. While official data is lacking, estimates of the size of the Bay Area’s Mam population range from 10,000 to 20,000, with Fruitvale and East Oakland at its center. Early on in El Tímpano’s development, we began to collaborate with local Mam educator and advocate Henry Sales to understand the information needs and assets of Oakland’s Mam immigrants. While churches, businesses, and social networks form important hubs for culture and community, Sales was one of many young Mam leaders working to address the significant gaps between Mam immigrants and the social services they needed. Sales, who has since joined El Tímpano’s Advisory Council, helped ensure we included Mam immigrants in our initial information needs assessment from 2017-2018. As one Mam resident told us then, describing his family members who speak neither Spanish nor English, “Simplemente no se informan” (“They are simply uninformed”).
While we’ve learned that the need for local services and resources designed by, with, and for the Bay Area’s Mam communities is immense, we’ve also witnessed a burgeoning of young leaders and initiatives from this community. We’re grateful for their commitment and partnership, without which Tumil El Tímpano would not have been possible.
First and foremost, we want to thank Wen Calm and Oswaldo Martín who, with the support of a grant from the American Press Institute, consulted with El Tímpano to develop a pilot Mam-language video series (initially called “Tpokb’al El Tímpano”). Calm, a storyteller born in Todos Santos, Guatemala and raised in Oakland, supported our process of listening to members of the Mam community at churches, in conversations, and in listening sessions with community organizations. Martín, an interpreter, student, and community leader, contributed his knowledge of Mam culture and community needs to develop our Mam engagement strategies and provide deeper cultural understanding and awareness among our team. We are also thankful for the team at Mujeres Unidas y Activas as well as Cresencio Ramirez, Felipe Can, Karla Mendoza, and Maria Vicente who have supported El Tímpano’s Mam outreach and participatory design process.
The official launch of Tumil El Tímpano is just the latest step in our efforts to inform, engage, and amplify the voices of the Bay Area’s Maya Mam immigrants. Since 2020, El Tímpano’s reporting has amplified the stories of Mam immigrants to local and national audiences, bringing attention to the experiences of communities that are not only underserved but also underreported and often misidentified as “Latino.” We’re proud to have collaborated with Mam-led initiatives including Radio B’alam, Censo Maya, and Oakland’s first-ever Mam Cultural Festivals. While we’ve produced Mam-language content for nearly a year now, we are thrilled to expand our offerings and audience with a growing staff and digital presence. We know there is much more we can do together to create more equitable information access, local journalism, and community engagement, and we look forward to continuing to learn and collaborate in pursuit of that goal.
El Tímpano partners with schools, libraries, and community organizations to ensure the Bay Area’s Latino and Mayan immigrants have a trustworthy source of news. If you’d like to collaborate to help spread the word about El Tímpano’s Mam- or Spanish-language news, information, and participatory reporting services, we’d love to hear from you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.