A translation of a post in Spanish on the official Facebook page of the California Governor called for the vaccination of “peasants”:

Yes, this happened:

At issue is the English translation of the word “campesinos”:

Google, partners with Oxford Languages, actually defines “campesino” as “peasant farmer”:

Merriam-Webster, however, defines the word as, “a native of a Latin American rural area” and “especiallya Latin American Indian farmer or farm laborer”

And, finally, Heifer International points out that the word doesn’t translate well into modern English:

I think it’s safe to say that, in Heifer’s Latin America projects, just about every one of our project participants would identify themselves as a campesino or campesina. But what does that mean, exactly? The most literal (and frequently used) translation is “peasant,” but that’s not really a word we use much in U.S. English anymore, unless it’s found in a history book. “Small-holder farmer” isn’t a bad translation, but it misses some of the word’s richness in Spanish.

Sara Koopman, who is a PhD candidate in geography at the University of British Columbia, writes a wonderful blog called Spanish for Social Change that focuses on social justice terminology for translators and interpreters. She has several posts on the term campesino and points to Via Campesina as an example of the complexity of the word. Via Campesina defines itself as “the international peasant movement” (clearly translating campesino as peasant) that brings together (and here’s their extended, de facto campesino definition) “millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world.” In subsequent posts, Sara also offers “family farmer” and “farmworker” as translations she has come across.

The post has since been updated, replacing “peasants” with “farm workers”:

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Tags: Newsom

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