Monday, July 31, 2006

Lives and dreams of Hispanic Rutherford County

In this feature from the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, Hispanic residents of Rutherford County reveal their ambitions and recent histories in Tennessee.

"Celia Martinez and her husband have been married nine years and have three children. The youngest one is only 2. Both parents would like their children to go to college someday."

"Jose Ramirez worked in California, hanging Sheetrock, while his family remained in Mexico. He returned to a town outside of Guadalajara for a year and worked on a cattle farm before he brought his family to Tennessee 10 years ago."

Read more

Friday, July 28, 2006

What's On/Que Pasa magazine launches September 1

The Tennessean reports in this article that Tennessee has a new magazine focusing on Hispanic news and events:

"Eva Melo, born in Mexico City 38 years ago, says experience has taught her there's a need for What's On In Tennessee/Que Pasa En Tennessee, which hits newsstands Sept. 1."

"As its title indicates, the monthly publication will focus on things to do. And like the name of the newspaper, the stories, calendar listings and advertising will be in both English and Spanish."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Welcoming Tennessee billboards rise in Nashville

The official public launch of the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative is today with the announcement of a 50-billboard campaign throughout Middle Tennessee. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday at noon at the billboard at 7th and Demonbreun. WKRN Channel 2 got a jump on the reporting Wednesday night (see this story which accompanied a short piece on the 10pm news).

Here is the press release:


A major goal: dampen hurtful rhetoric against immigrants in political campaigns

NASHVILLE, TN- A group of concerned Tennesseans has launched an initiative to remind us of our state’s core values that are being suffocated in today’s political climate. The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative is founded on the principle that Tennesseans are proud to be decent and hospitable, with a shared responsibility to treat all neighbors with empathy and respect.

To preserve these values, the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative has begun a regional billboard campaign aimed at reminding Nashville area residents that positive voices are needed to elevate the immigration discussion, and to demonstrate our values to the immigrants of our state. The first two billboards read as follows: “Welcome the Immigrant You Once Were” and “I Was a Stranger, And You Welcomed Me.”

As immigrants continue to call Tennessee home, this initiative is committed to a better understanding of the contributions that immigrants make to our state. It reminds us that we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants and challenges hurtful stereotypes that are prevalent in political campaigns.

The group hopes to build their messages in cooperation with other groups who have been and are concerned about the well-being of all Tennesseans.

Gregg Ramos, attorney and son of immigrant parents said, “Anytime a segment of our society is denied basic human rights, like due process, we all suffer, so I was attracted to the effort to raise the level of discourse about immigration in Tennessee.”

“We believe that new Tennesseans share our values, contribute to our economy, enhance our combined culture and strengthen our communities,” stated Bill Partridge, professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University.

For more information about the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative please visit

John Lamb, the editor of the Hispanic Nashville Notebook, is on the steering committee of the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"You Are So Nashville If..." - Hispanic-themed entries

You Are So Nashville If...The Nashville Scene's 2006 "You Are So Nashville If..." issue hit newsstands last week, and the annual exercise in comically expressed local sentiment attracted at least four publishable comments relating to Hispanics:

Your carwash talks to you in Spanish. —Steve Dobbrastine

You think illegal Mexicans are just as bad as homosexuals, Islamic terrorists and Pac Man Jones. —Mike Williams

You don’t mind the immigrants, but wish you could deport Tim Chavez. —Ilissa Gold

You need a translator to read you the Ask a Mexican column. —Michele Totty

Apparently, the contest either attracted fewer overtly xenophobic entries than last year (story here), or the editors simply chose not to mention them.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Honduran mission trumps Vanderbilt position for Erin Keckley

The Tennessean reports in this article that Nashvillian Erin Keckley has resigned her pediatric medical research position at the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to become a medical missionary in Honduras.

"Friday was her last day at Vanderbilt. She resigned to throw herself fulltime into the life of a medical missionary at the Baxter Institute's James Moody Adams Health Center in Tegucigalpa, Honduras."

"Her plans are to return to Nashville in six months to work toward a master's degree."

"'After that, my goal is to go down there and run that clinic full time,' she says."

"'From the first time I went down there, I truly felt I was exactly where God wanted me to be.'"

Focus: Faith, Health

Friday, July 21, 2006

Taste of Argentina workshop starts Monday July 31 (Update: July 24 class cancelled)

Watkins College Community Education Program has partnered with Tango Nashville, Second Harvest Culinary Arts Center, and Sister Cities of Nashville to offer an introduction to Tango, food, wine and film in a 3-part Taste of Argentina series.

Update 7/22/2006: the July 24 class has been cancelled.

'A Taste of Argentina'
Monday, July 24, July 31, and August 7, 2006
6:00 to 9:00 pm
Community Education at Watkins College of Art and Design
2298 MetroCenter Blvd., Nashville, TN 37228
Phone: 615-383-4848

Taste of Argentina Part 1 - Food and Wine

Monday, Jul. 24, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. $50
Chef: Hernan Borda of Rumours Wine & Art Bar.
Students will learn the importance of food and wine in Argentinean culture. Discover signature recipes such as empanaditas and churrasco with chimichurri sauce, while tasting regional wines that are the perfect complement to these savory dishes.

Taste of Argentina Part 2 - Film
Monday, Jul. 31, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Donations appreciated.
Celebrate Argentinean heritage by watching an award-winning film on the big screen in Watkins theater! A critique and discussion will follow the film. More details coming soon!

Taste of Argentina Part 3 - Argentine Tango
Monday, Aug. 7, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. $30
Tango Nashville's Troupe will introduce this sophisticated and daring dance form to students interested in learning about the fascinating evolution of how Argentine Tango came to be, as well as the basic moves. Partners are recommended but not necessary. Please wear comfortable clothing and leather-soled closed heel shoes.

For more information and to register, please visit: (scroll down to almost the end of the page)

Focus: Education, Entertainment, Health

Tango Milonga to feature Kentucky instructor Thursday July 27

'Milonga' & Tango Class with Guest Instructor
('Milonga' is the Argentine Tango Social/Dance Gathering)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
6:30 to 9:00 pm (Note earlier start time to allow for the class)
Ibiza Night Club
15128 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville, TN 37211
(almost corner with Nolensville Pike, in the Hickory Trace Village strip mall where the Sherwin Williams store is).

6:30 to 7:15 PM
Come out and enjoy a class by guest instructor John Patterson, from Kentucky: "Tango Fundamentals - Being Mindful, Being Musical, Being Tango," suitable for all levels.
John, a physician in private practice, teaches mind-body medicine, stress management and wellness with both the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Center for Mind Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. He emphasizes yoga, movement, dance, relaxation, meditation and mindfulness. John says that next Thursday's class "aims to get us out of our thinking brain and into our bodies, our senses, and ultimately, our hearts - where tango lives, where tango heals."

7:15 to 9:00 PM
Practice and show off your Argentine Tango skills, while socializing and enjoying a great atmosphere AND a great selection of Tango music.

Tickets are:
$12 per person for non-Tango Nashville members
$8 per person for Tango Nashville members

Save the date!
5th 'Tango by Moonlight'
Friday, September 8, 2006
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Event Shelter, Centennial Park
Don't miss it!!

Focus: Entertainment

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Foreign race": a yellow flag (updated)

Tucked away in a story on a Nashville councilman's immigration/employment proposal (which is unique in that it purports to punish employers directly, as opposed to exclusively punishing employees), is a reference to "people of foreign race."

Unless "foreign race" refers to the Tour de France or Formula 1 at Monte Carlo, this slip of either the WKRN reporter or the politician quoted in the story reveals a racial undercurrent in a debate that is supposedly race-neutral.

Here is an excerpt of the original WKRN story:

One Metro councilman is angry that illegal immigrants are working on Metro projects. Now, he is taking action. Councilman J.B. Loring is behind a bill that would penalize contractors from hiring undocumented workers. He said his office is flooded with complaints of undocumented workers on Metro jobs. Loring said about a third of the calls that he has received are from people of foreign race. "I think they're fed up with the situation," he said.

The comment is made in the context of the councilman's attempt to preemptively defend the "fed up" attitude as one that is not race-based. But the "foreign race" term (whoever used it) is evidence of two things. First, at least some of the emotion in the immigration debate is race-conscious. Second, a line is being drawn between a "domestic" race and a "foreign" race - implying that different racial groups have unequal claims to being American.

Note the parallels between the the tone in the WKRN story and the debate over California's infamous Proposition 187:

The public statements of the drafters of Proposition 187 left the unmistakable imprint of racial animus. One initiative leader conjured up disturbing imagery of lynching, a device historically used to terrorize African Americans in the United States: '[y]ou are the posse ... and [Proposition 187] is the rope.' Harold Ezell, a high-ranking INS official during the Reagan presidency who was loathed by Latino activists because of his derogatory comments about illegal aliens, attributed Proposition 187's widespread support to the fact that '[t]he people are tired of watching their state run wild and become a third world country.' Barbara Kiley, mayor of an Orange County town, reportedly described the children of undocumented immigrants as 'those little f--kers.' Her husband and the initiative campaign's political consultant, Richard Kiley, observed that the public protests of Proposition 187 were counterproductive because '[o]n TV there was nothing but Mexican flags and brown faces.' Barbara Coe, a Proposition 187 supporter, expressed fear of the 'militant arm of the pro-illegal activists, who have vowed to take over first California, then the Western states and then the rest of the nation.'
-Kevin R. Johnson, Race, The Immigration Laws, And Domestic Race Relations: a "Magic Mirror" into the Heart of Darkness, 73 Indiana Law Journal 1111-1159, 1112-1148

Considering Nashville's historic struggles for a favorable racial climate, its growing national reputation as a destination for relocating businesses, and the detrimental effects of racial divisiveness, let's raise the yellow flag in the local immigration debate and recognize the hazard on the track. Nashvillians and their leaders must redirect the immigration debate toward the city's values of unity, hospitality and empathy, and away from divisiveness, anger and animus. Otherwise, the concept of a "foreign race" will flourish, and the city is headed for a spectacular crash.

Focus: Language, Justice

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Two Chamber events tonight

There are two Hispanic chamber* events tonight: one in Franklin, and one in Nashville:

Franklin Chamber event

The Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce invites you to a evening of networking this coming TUESDAY, JULY 18th at 5:30PM, Garcia's mexican restaurant, 316 Williamson Sq, Franklin, TN 37064. Bring business cards. You do not need to speak Spanish or know anything about the Hispanic market. All meetings are in English. $5 Members (and students), $10 non-members. You do not need to RSVP. We have two spots available for Spotlight on Business. Let us know if you are interested in speaking.

Tennessee Chamber event

Event: Hispanic Business XChange
Date: July 18, 2006 @ 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Check In: 4:15 - 4:30
Location: Bar Twenty3
Format: QuikConnect
Participants: Open to All Professions & All Industries. All businesses interested in fostering relationships and connections to Hispanic Business community.
Event Description: As the fastest growing population and segment of entrepreneurs, The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and SBN offer a private opportunity to create relationships within the Hispanic and broader Nashville business communities. Meet professionals from a variety of industries, share ideas, and build relationships through a series of one-on-one interactions.
Includes: Appetizers. CASH bar
Price: $25 pre registration, $30 at the door
Address: 503 12th Ave South, Nashville, TN

*Hispanic Chamber 101: There are three Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tennessean profiled all three chambers in this article in June 2006.

Focus: Business, Chamber

Monday, July 17, 2006

Workplace rights are strengthened in Nashville Hispanic Chamber forums

The Tennessean reports in this article that the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce* continues to convene discussions on the legal rights and responsibilities of Hispanic employees and employers.

"The chamber has been holding a series of forums aimed at educating Hispanic business owners and their employees of the legal rights guaranteed to both. The forums tackle several topics - from discrimination to wage-and-hour laws."

"Amber Gooding, executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, said the forum and other meetings like it help immigrant workers stand up for themselves."

Although not all Hispanics are immigrants, the participants in these forums include immigrants - both employers and employees. A report issued by the Drum Major Institute concluded that employment rights are a vital part of immigration reform:

When immigrants lack rights in the workplace, labor standards are driven down, and all working people have less opportunity to enter or remain part of the middle class. So a pro-middle-class immigration policy must guarantee immigrants full labor rights and make sure that employers cannot use deportation as a coercive tool in the labor market.

(from Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class: A Primer for Policymakers and Advocates)

*Hispanic Chamber 101: There are three Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tennessean profiled all three chambers in this article in June 2006.

Focus: Business, Chamber, Justice

Friday, July 14, 2006

Franklin Hispanic Chamber networking Tuesday July 18

This Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce* sent out this invitation for its next networking mixer scheduled for Tuesday, July 18:

The Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce invites you to a evening of networking this coming TUESDAY, JULY 18th at 5:30PM, Garcia's mexican restaurant, 316 Williamson Sq, Franklin, TN 37064. Bring business cards. You do not need to speak Spanish or know anything about the Hispanic market. All meetings are in English. $5 Members (and students), $10 non-members. You do not need to RSVP. We have two spots available for Spotlight on Business. Let us know if you are interested in speaking.

The event has been added to the Google Calendar-based Hispanic Nashville Datebook. (Volunteers are needed to keep the Datebook current. Any interested volunteers should contact the editor.)

*Hispanic Chamber 101: There are three Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tennessean profiled all three chambers in this article in June 2006.

Focus: Business, Chamber

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nashville is haven, home for immigrants

Southern hospitality shines through

A series of articles in the Tennessean featured the stories of people from around the world who have come from different backgrounds abroad to find a home in Nashville.

This story featured the first International Block Party hosted by the Refugee and Immigration Services department of Catholic Charities of Tennessee:

"'Most refugees are hesitant when they come here and say they'll go back home eventually, but they get sucked in,' said [Holly] Johnson, [director of the Refugee and Immigration Services department]. 'Most refugees are happy with Nashville. They find the people welcoming and supportive.'"

"Johnson said Catholic Charities has helped resettle Cubans, Iranians, Somalis, Ethiopians, Kurds, Kenyans and Sudanese and including those who practice B'hai, Muslim and Christian faiths."

"Once an application for asylum is accepted by the U.S. State Department and a destination city is set, the charity helps by picking up refugees from the airport, setting up housing and helping them apply for services."

Another story focused mostly on the Somali refugees new to Nashville:

Musa Matan would "rather not talk about the squalid place where persecuted Somali Bantus sought refuge, the paltry food rations or the unforgiving hot sun. But he will talk about it, if only to explain how good life is since he and his wife, Fatuma Aden, left that world behind and moved to east Nashville."

"'That was the toughest place I'll ever see in my life,' Matan, 69, said through a translator. 'Now we are so happy. We are so glad to be in this country.'"

This column in the Tennessean highlighted Muslim women in the South and featured Egypt-born Nashville resident Zainab Elberry:

"In Nashville, Elberry seconds the idea of a new and improved South. In the 1970s' Nashville, Elberry felt like an outsider. 'Talk about (glass) ceilings,' she now jokes. 'I was a woman, Arab and Muslim. You learn about frustration.'"

"Yet she persisted. Today, she owns her own insurance brokerage company, PINC Financial. She moves easily among the Nashville elite, including top Democrats such as former Vice President Al Gore."

"After all, she says, "Nashville is my home.'"

This article explores the process of immigration and features the story of Colombian-born Vicente Ayala:

"Vicente Ayala of Nashville filed for a green card at the U.S. embassy in Colombia, hoping to emigrate from his home in the city of Cali. While waiting, his wife became pregnant with their second child. They named him Kevin, hoping the American-sounding name would help him to blend in if and when they moved to the U.S."

"Five years after applying, Ayala learned that his petition had been accepted. He and his family arrived in Nashville last year."

"The green card has been the difference between a hardscrabble existence in Colombia and a promising future in the U.S., he said."

"'It opens a big door,' Ayala said."

One story on the front page of the July 4 Tennessean featured Jose Ceja, the son of slain restaranteur Aureliano Ceja, who said that despite the tragedy, "Where there's money, there's dangers. We still feel more comfortable here than any place in the world." Another July 4 story featured Colombian-born Omaira Pedraza Heakin:

"She cherishes her citizenship, which she earned in November 2004 after five years spent in this country."

"'A lot of people want to get out of Colombia,' she says, when asked why she left home to come here. 'Colombia had a lot of problems, economic pressures.'"

"'The American people that has been born here give us a welcome. I feel welcomed to belong to this country,' she says."

Focus: Hospitality, Integration

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mobile Mexican consulate arrives July 22

The following press release announces the July 22 visit of the Mexican Mobile Consulate to Nashville.

Mexican Mobile Consulate visits Nashville

The consulates of Mexico in The United States have a program called Mobile Consulate. This program offers weekend visits to the Mexican communities that are far away from the office buildings of the consulates.

The main Mobile Consulate obejctives are:
· To know the problems and particular necessities of Mexicans that live in that area.
· Provide them consulate services.
· Detection of possible cases that need protection.
· Promote activities of the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior.
· Promote the Paisano program.
· Keep an ongoing dialogue with community leaders from that area.

With the Mobile Consulate program, Mexico’s government is even closer to its nationals living in far away places as Alaska and Hawaii.

Most of the services that the Consulate offers in its visits are:
· Issuing of high security consulate ID’s (matricula consular).
· Issuing of passports.
· Attend cases that need protection.
· Promotion of campaigns for preventive protection.

The next visit of the Mexican Mobile Consulate to Nashville will be
July 22, 2006
Woodbine Community Center,
222 Orel Ave., Nashville, TN 37210

If you would like to support this event please call Leticia Alvarez,
Tel. (615) 293-3717

Previous visits to Nashville of the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta were reported in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook in 2003, 2004, and 2005.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Harding Y: "international" possibility

The Tennessean reports in this article that the diversity of the membership at the Harding Place YMCA has prompted a proposed name change.

"If approved, the new name would represent the diversity of the membership. It would be the Harding Place International YMCA. It's already been presented and approved by the Harding Place YMCA board. It still needed final approval from the YMCA of Middle Tennessee board at press time."

"'I'd say 25 percent of the population is African-American and 8 to 12 percent is Latino,' said Harding Place Y Senior Program Director Paul Bianchi, who has worked at several YMCAs."

"'We have a large Middle Eastern population. It's a very interesting melting pot. It's the most diverse Y I've ever worked at. We have to hire a diverse staff, people who can speak the languages and know the cultures. Everyone gets along. We've had very little, if at all, ethnicity or racial situations.'"


Monday, July 10, 2006

Chamber feeds diversity dialogue at World Cafe, young professionals call for integration

The Tennessean reported in this article that the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a dinner discussion about race and diversity in Nashville, with the idea that diversity is essential for the attraction and retention of young professionals.

"The chamber and many business leaders believe diversity is essential to attracting and keeping employees - particularly young, educated professionals who could live anywhere."

Diversity in Nashville has been on the mind of Nissan USA employees, many of whom were asked to move here as part of the company's decision to relocate its headquarters from California to the Nashville area (stories here and here).

"Nashville is very diverse," said an attendee of the Chamber dinner, according to the article. "It's just a matter of integrating."

The dinner was called "World Cafe" and was held at Sunset Grill in Hillsboro Village.

Focus: Business

Friday, July 7, 2006

Susana Pae: Nashville news anchor

The Tennessean profiled Susana Pae in this article last week. Pae is the General Manager of Nashville's Telefutura affiliate and has recently taken on duties as news anchor.

"One of the newest news faces on Nashville television is Telefutura’s Susana Pae. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and raised in Mexico City and Houston, she is the newscaster for 'Noticias a Su Alcance' or 'News at your Fingertips.'"

"Pae spent [time] as a child in Springfield with family. She is the granddaughter of Bates Ellis and niece of Jerome and Allan Ellis."

"The two-minute news section runs on Telefutura three times each weeknight in prime time."

The reports can also be viewed on the NewsChannel5 web site at

Focus: Media

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Taco attack is back on Metro Council agenda (updated with result of vote)

Photo by Susan Adcock for the Hispanic Nashville Notebook

According to this story in the Tennessean, the Metro Council is renewing its attempts to restrict the legal businesses of taco vendors. Tonight's meeting of the Council will include the second vote on space-related proposals, such as rules to keep taco vendors from setting up shop within 1,500 feet of one another. The Metro Planning Department has already voted against the proposals, which means that the bill would need a supermajority to pass the Council in the final vote, if it gets that far.

Previous proposals to ban the trucks outright left Nashville with a negative national reputation that is proving hard to shake, as evidenced by this December 2005 column and this June 2006 column.

Previous articles in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook have followed the history of these proposals from their emergence in November 2005:

  • Legal taco stands would close in proposed ban
  • Taco stand ban sparked by competing restaurants, but recent survey shows high scores
  • Mobile food trailer ban on hold; family businesses await decision
  • Nashville cited in list of "irrational" acts against Hispanics in 2005
  • Proposed taco ban on Council calendar again
  • Taco ban deferred again
  • City government still tweaking taco stand laws

  • update July 7, 2006: The Council amended the measure to exempt all currently licensed food vendors, leading to its unanimous approval on second vote, according to this article in the City Paper.

    Focus: Business
    Focus: Justice

    District Attorney General stands up for civil rights of Hispanic drivers in ticketing allegations

    "This conduct violates the civil rights of the Hispanic community, and hence the civil rights of all Americans."

    Coopertown Mayor Danny Crosby is the subject of a complaint filed by Robertson County District Attorney General John Carney in regard to (among other things) Crosby's alleged instruction to police officers to ticket Hispanics because they're "mostly illegal anyway," according to this article in the Tennessean. The complaint is notable for stating that the alleged violation of Hispanic drivers' civil rights infringes on everyone's civil rights.

    The story has made national and international headlines, including this story in the New York Times and this story in the UK's Times Online, which compared Mayor Crosby to the Dukes of Hazzard's Boss Hogg.

    Photo: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird

    Focus: Justice

    Saturday, July 1, 2006

    Festival of the Nations July 4 (updated)

    The invitation for a July 4 "Festival of Nations" in Nashville is below.

    Immigrants celebrating Independence Day in various ways were highlighted in this Wall Street Journal article on Friday.

    update July 5, 2006: The Tennessean published stories featuring local Mexican immigrant Jose Ceja (story here) and local Colombian immigrant and U.S. citizen Omaira Pedraza Heakin (story here) and their feelings about the U.S. on the Fourth of July.

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