Monday, December 31, 2007

National Association of Latino Arts and Culture recognizes Tango Nashville

Tango Nashville announced its recognition by The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) Fund for the Arts:
The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) selected Tango Nashville to receive $2,500 from the NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA) for its 2007-2008 cycle for support general operating support and to build internal capacity for the organization. This is Tango Nashville’s first time applying to the NALAC Fund for the Arts.

Tango Nashville, the only Latino Performing Arts nonprofit organization in Tennessee, is dedicated to the education and entertainment of residents of Middle Tennessee in the art and culture of the Argentine Tango. A 4-year old organization, that became a nonprofit in May 2005, Tango Nashville offers classes, workshops, cultural programming and training, as well as live dance and music presentations. For more information on Tango Nashville, please visit

“We are happy to support Tango Nashville through an NFA award and look forward to strengthening our support of the Latino arts community in Nashville. The NALAC Fund for the Arts successfully completed its third year funding cycle and will launch its fourth year effort in 2008. We are excited about the diverse group of supporters that have invested in the NFA to support the Latino arts sector. We will continue to grow the circle of stakeholders who are supporting Latino creative expression,” states Maria De Leon, Executive Director of NALAC

Funding for this grant award is supported in part by the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Southwest Airlines through a grant from the NALAC Fund for the Arts. For more information on the NALAC Fund for the Arts, please visit

Through the NALAC Fund for the Arts, NALAC has provided 128 grants totaling more than $379,000 to Latino artists, ensembles and small and mid-size Latino arts and culture organizations throughout the U.S.

Abel López, Chair of the NALAC Board said, “NALAC’s support of Latino artists and organizations ensures that the nation’s cultural life is enriched and made vital through the diverse artistic and cultural expressions of our artists. We are pleased to support the creative process of Latino artists and organizations across the country that engage communities, stimulate ideas and local economies, and build audiences for all of the nation’s arts.”

This year, Tango Nashville also received funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Metro Nashville Arts Commission and The Danner Foundation.

Tango started in Argentina in the late 1880’s as a result of the connection between locals and immigrants. Tango dance and music evolved to become an international phenomenon and language that connects cultures and individuals around the globe.

Just like the Tango dance and music, Tango Nashville continuous to evolve and to draw support and attention from local, regional and national organizations, businesses and individuals.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"Boners" include immigration category this year

Nashville Scene aims at those who aimed at immigrants in 2007

The 2007 edition of the Nashville Scene's Boner Awards (here) includes a category in which three local men are cited for their immigrant-related actions. Here are excerpts, with links to background stories:
Named for former Nashville Mayor Bill Boner, who set a high bar for low deeds during Music City’s dark days of the late ’80s, the Boner Awards have taken on a life of their own over almost two decades. That’s because greed, bad judgment and epic bungling never go away, despite our fondest hopes. Looking back over this year’s rancid harvest of goofs, gaffes and grotesqueries, one thing is clear: Boners are a renewable resource.
Your “English only” amendment in Metro Council this year was the legislative equivalent of the Maginot line: a useless, expensive monument to irrelevance. [more on this Boner here and more on its demise here -Ed.]
This ooh-scary “theory” alleges that Mexican immigrant laborers—which he refers to loudly and often as “the illegal immigrant invasion”—are really one vast sleeper cell waiting to rise up and re-conquer the American Southwest. (That explains why so many are living in Nashville.) [more on this Boner here -Ed.]
The chump-change Scarface tried to give himself a $10,000-a-month salary with a $450 car allowance on the chamber’s dime. About a month after the story broke, he was fired from his chamber position and called “a cancer” on the Hispanic community by board members. We think “Boner” also fits the bill. [more on this Boner here and here -Ed.]
Photo by Emilie Eagan. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Documentary condemns Nashville's Corrections Corporation of America for role in "largest trend of family internment since World War II"

Spotlight on CCA adds to previous attention by United Nations, Amnesty International, ACLU, and Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children

T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, Texas houses families in former prison

A Nashville issue?

In an era of family-dividing deportations, the immigration arm of the U.S. government has arranged for Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA") to house immigrant families together, but where and how the families are placed has been framed by some as a moral and human rights crisis.

CCA's T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, which for the past few years has housed families including pregnant women and children, has been the subject of a litigation settlement with the ACLU, a thwarted inspection by the United Nations, an investigative report by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, multiple vigils, petitions, and now a documentary called, "America's Family Prison."

Strong words

All of the above oppose the penal nature of the detention of families and children at Hutto, the CCA facility and former medium-security prison. The Women's Commission report says here that
ICE chose to develop a penal detention model that is fundamentally anti-family and un-American.
The ACLU maintains here that
detaining immigrant children at Hutto is inappropriate.
U.N. inspector Jorge Bustamante reported here, after his visit to the U.S., that
accompanied and unaccompanied children are temporarily detained in adult detention facilities which do not adequately protect the rights of child migrants.
The documentary calls Hutto part of the
largest trend of family internment since World War II.

Authorized by Congress, implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE")

How did the U.S. government decide to send families to repurposed prisons? The Women's Commission report offers the brief history below, saying that ICE, by using a former prison, improperly implemented a pro-family directive from Congress:
The recent increase in family detention represents a major shift in the U.S. government’s treatment of families in immigration proceedings. Prior to the opening of Hutto, the majority of families were either released together from detention or separated from each other and detained individually. Children were placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Division for Unaccompanied Children’s Services, and parents were detained in adult facilities.

Congress discovered this and took immediate action to rectify it, in keeping with America’s tradition of promoting family values. It directed ICE to stop separating families and either to place them in alternative programs or to detain them together in nonpenal, homelike settings. Such Congressional directives were intended to preserve and protect the role of the family as the fundamental unit in our society. However, ICE chose to develop a penal detention model that is
fundamentally anti-family and un-American.

CCA's 2007 in review: profit jumps, closure threatened, attorney nominated to federal bench

The Hispanic Nashville Notebook reported on Hutto in March (here), before some of the events described above. Other events since March include the following:
  • CCA's third quarter financial report (profit jumps due in part to contracts with ICE);
  • a threat by the county (since resolved) to force the facility's shutdown;
  • this statement in June by Amnesty International: "Amnesty International urges DHS not to detain children. If there is ever justification to detain a child, it should be for the shortest time possible and in the least restrictive setting possible"; and
  • the judicial nomination of CCA's top attorney, Gus Puryear, to a seat on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Who is asking the questions in Nashville?

According to most reports, Nashville-based CCA is keeping its comments on Hutto to a minimum, with the most significant response being the settlement of the ACLU litigation and improved conditions at the facility. But have the executive team, the board, or the shareholders considered big-picture questions regarding the detainment of families and children in general? Has anyone at CCA headquarters asked whether, as Amnesty International asserts, child detention itself is improper? Was there a point when CCA's top attorney should have advised against the contracts to detain children at Hutto, as one letter to President Bush asserts?

Beyond CCA itself, should Nashville be brought into the dialog about what its hometown corporation does for the federal government? The Nashville media don't appear to have reported on Hutto, despite significant coverage in Texas media. Middle Tennessee journalists (or their managers) are paid to know what their readers and viewers would find newsworthy, and that might not include the detention of families by a local company and the hubbub about it raised by groups in Texas and elsewhere. Or, maybe CCA has good answers to all of these questions, and Nashvillians would see no controversy.

Ultimately, it appears that the concerns that have been raised about a locally-owned facility located hundreds of miles away in South Texas have been, and may remain, a nonissue in Tennessee.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sumner County emergency responders get translation line but don't use it

Translators on call for "just about every language imaginable"

Not used in 2 of first 3 months

The Tennessean reports here that Sumner County emergency responders were given a translation line about three months ago, but use is minimal:
Although Sumner County's Emergency 911 Board is paying $100 a month to provide for language translation services for emergency responders, director Buddy Shaffer says the service is going largely unused.

"On my bills for the last two months, it hasn't shown where they made a call on it," Shaffer said.

The program, implemented about three months ago, makes it possible for dispatchers, police officers or other emergency responders dealing with a non-English speaking person to call translators fluent in just about every language imaginable, Shaffer said.
Shaffer said he wants to make the translation service easier to use.
With an influx of immigrants in the county, the service is becoming even more important every day to provide timely emergency response, Shaffer said.
Photo by Selva Morales. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The fear of Christmas

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him." King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men's report of the star's first appearance.

Luke 2:9-10; Matthew 2:1-3, 12, 16 (New Living Translation)

Photo by Kathy Mackey. Licensed under Creative Commons

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Ho Ho Ho" from the whimsical Santa at Las Americas Restaurant and Pupuseria

Thanks to Susan Adcock at Pitcherlady for capturing the sombrero-wearing Santa Claus above, from a window at the Las Americas Restaurant and Pupuseria on Nolensville Road. The accompanying post (here) tells a fine Nashville tale of cultures coming together.

Photo copyright Susan Adcock. Used by permission.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Next Door Neighbors" documentary series to highlight Nashville's immigrants and refugees

Joint production of Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies, Nashville Public Television

Funded by HCA Foundation, Nissan Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Nashville Public Television President and CEO announced in the Tennessean (here) a new partnership with Vanderbilt University to produce the "Next Door Neighbors" documentary series about the immigrant and refugee populations of Nashville:
Over the next several years, NPT will produce a series of documentaries exploring the immigrant and refugee communities that call Nashville home. Reaching diverse groups such as the Kurds and Somalis in Middle Tennessee could be a daunting prospect for NPT on its own, but through the extensive research and outreach already conducted by The Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies and its director, Dan Cornfield, preproduction is under way. Cornfield, a former member of our advisory board, will provide an invaluable introduction to, and perspective on, the challenges these communities face as they assimilate into our city.

With Vanderbilt's expertise and NPT's meticulous attention to quality, we'll present Nashville with documentaries that educate and inspire. Off the screen, our "Next Door Neighbors" series will provide a rich basis for community discussion.
Local corporate powerhouses HCA Foundation and Nissan Foundation will provide funding, according to this Vanderbilt press release:
NPT will produce, through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the HCA Foundation, and the Nissan Foundation, a three-four year documentary series examining Nashville’s booming foreign-born population. Vanderbilt's Center for Nashville Studies will provide research assistance reaching immigrant and refugee groups, including Hispanics, Kurds and Somalis, and resources to better understand the issues they face in Nashville. This will be spearheaded by sociology professor Dan Cornfield, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies and a former member of NPT’s Community Advisory Board, who has conducted extensive research on foreign-born populations in Nashville.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eric Volz is not a murderer, says appeals court; freedom still in question

Talk radio hosts call for vigilante justice after immigrant's criminal conviction is overturned

The Tennessean is reporting here that the murder conviction of Nashvillian Eric Volz has been overturned, but that he may remain in the custody of Nicaraguan officials.

Volz, an American immigrant to Nicaragua, was running a bilingual magazine in that country when his ex-girlfriend was murdered late last year.

Earlier this year, Volz was convicted of the crime in what his family and U.S. officials deemed to be a sham affair clouded by anti-immigrant fervor (see related stories here and here).

From the Tennessean:
Joy gave way to worry hours after the Eric Volz family heard the 28-year-old had been freed from a Nicaraguan prison but remained in the country, where radio broadcasters called for vigilante justice against the American accused of killing his former girlfriend.

A Nicaraguan appeals court on Monday overturned Volz's conviction and 30-year prison sentence and ordered his release.

The Associated Press reported that Volz, of Nashville, had been freed from prison in the town of Granada, some 25 miles east of Managua, but the news service said his whereabouts were unknown.
A family spokeswoman and an official in Washington said Volz had not been released.

Update 12/21/07: AP reports Volz freed and headed for U.S.

Photo credit:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church opens in old Radnor Baptist space

Inaugurated in Aztec-style, drum-led procession of faith

Mass draws over 1,000

"Welcome to our neighborhood"

A "miracle"

The Tennessean reported here about the "half-mile pilgrimage Wednesday from St. Edward to the former Radnor Baptist Church, about to be reopened as Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church":
Led by a police escort and an honor guard of the Knights of Columbus, several parishioners carried an icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a wooden platform covered with flowers and electric candles.

A group of drummers and dancers in Aztec-style costumes followed the icon. Behind them, parishioners carried children, umbrellas, icons of the Virgin Mary, American flags and candles as volunteers in orange vests waived flashlights and yelled "Rapido!"

As they passed the corner of Simmons and Morton avenues, a group of neighbors stood on the porch and cheered: "Welcome to our neighborhood."
More than 1,000 people would eventually pack the new church, where Bishop David Choby celebrated Mass.
The Rev. Joseph Breen, pastor of St. Edward, called the event "a miracle."
The new building is a godsend, said Breen, allowing Hispanic parishioners, led by the Rev. Fernando Garcia, to have a home of their own.
Photo by Francisca Galaz. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Deadline today: Hispanic Nashville Noteworthy nominations

Nominations are due today for the second annual "Hispanic Nashville Noteworthy" Awards, which recognize exceptional people, groups, items, places, events, contributions, or achievements* by or related to Hispanic Nashvillians. The Noteworthy Awards are a project of the Hispanic Nashville Notebook.

Send to the editor a description of the person, group, item, place, event, contribution, or achievement you believe is especially "noteworthy," along with an explanation for your nomination (with some specifics), your connection to the nominee, a short bio or background of the nominee, any additional information that supports your nomination such as newspaper articles or pictures, and your contact information.

Last year's recipients are listed here.

*These are examples only. Anyone and anything can be nominated - a restaurant, business, book, accountant, taco stand, newspaper, decision, party, church, mural, dentist, school, neighborhood, politician, song - anything, as long as it is noteworthy and among or related to the Hispanic members of the Nashville community.

Charlotte Park Elementary is 25% Hispanic

From The Tennessean:
Charlotte Park Elementary — 11 percent Asian, 41 percent African-American, 25 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Native American and 22 percent white
Photo by Claude Covo-Farchi. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pedro Garcia, Nashville's Spanish-speaking director of public schools, may be looking at San Diego job

The Tennessean reports here that Metro Public Schools director Pedro Garcia may be under consideration for the top job at the San Diego Unified School District. His Spanish-speaking skills are considered to be a plus for the job.

From the Tennessean:
A source who has spoken to Garcia on the subject confirmed Tuesday he was in the running to become the next school superintendent of the 133,000-student San Diego Unified School District. Garcia has refused to comment, offering only, "I intend to be here until June 30, 2010."
Garcia ... has the power to walk away with 120 days' written notice.

School board members in San Diego aren't confirming that Garcia, who taught in San Diego in the 1970s, is a finalist for the job....

The most officials will say is that they're looking for a new superintendent, and, according to the district's Web site, someone who can speak Spanish and is a risk taker is a plus. Garcia meets both criteria.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What Senator Thompson said in Republican debate on Spanish-language network Univision

This is a transcript of the responses of former U.S. Senator from Tennessee Fred Thompson at last night's Republican candidate presidential debate on the Spanish-language network Univision:
MODERATOR: Senator Thompson, in a recent survey from Pew Hispanic Center, published this past week, only 23 percent of Hispanics favor the Republican Party.

MODERATOR: What are you going to do -- what can you offer to recover the lost ground among Hispanics?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that we do share a lot in this country, whether we're Hispanic or whether we are not Hispanic. I think we have some of the basic values. I think Republicans got away from those values.

You talked about Congress a minute ago. Congress' record rating with the American people is at an all-time low. It's not just in the Hispanic community. It's in the other communities that traditionally supported us. We were too often affiliated with matters of corruption in the United States Congress. We are spending the next generation's money, those yet to be born. We are spending their money, with no restraint.

We need to stand up for the values that we are supposed to believe in. We need to stand up for a strong national defense. We need to stand up for judges who will obey the law and follow the law, instead of making it up as it goes along, and we need to stand strong for issues of pro-life, and support traditional values that are important to our families. This is very important to Hispanics as well as non-Hispanics.


Senator Thompson, we were preparing this forum, and we found a survey from Los Angeles Times that said that 60 percent of the voters in the United States think that -- they are in favor of granting legal status to undocumented aliens if they meet certain criteria.

Why, if the majority supports that, why not support that idea?

THOMPSON: Because we have to enforce our borders, and we have to uphold the law. There are millions of people who have stood in line in embassies around the world, United States embassies, waiting to become American citizens, waiting to become legal residents of the United States of America.
Some places, such as Hong Kong, I read it takes an average of 13 years to go through that process.
The legal process needs to be reformed, indeed.
But when they finally come here, and when they are joined by those people in Latin America who have often fought tyranny, who have fought against the Castro regime, who have come here and risked their lives to become United States citizens, when all those people come here, they become a part of us; they become a part of our family.

THOMPSON: It would disrespect them if we said other people who had not obeyed the law and had not gone through the process, to set them above them and to give them special status above those who have obeyed the law and fought so hard to become good American citizens and legal residents.

MODERATOR: Senator Thompson, there are still millions of children that were born here in the United States that at least have one undocumented parent. The (inaudible) have separated them from the parents, and they are American citizens.

Do these children have the right not to be separated from their parents?
THOMPSON: Well, congratulations. That's the first question that's got applause tonight, so it must be a very good one.

The -- our courts have ruled that such children, such babies born here are United States citizens. That's part of the 14th Amendment as has been interpreted by the courts, as I understand it.

THOMPSON: That's for starters.

I believe that the concentration should not be on the concern of waiting until that child grows up and serves as an anchor baby, as we hear so much talk about. I believe the concern should be chain migration. Right now, we have a situation where people can bring in spouses, children, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and so forth. I think that people should be able to serve as a basis for the bringing in of their spouses and of their children, but I do not think there should be endless chain migration.
So I think that is the issue to focus on, and not innocent children who are born here not of their own accord and who our courts have said our United States citizens.

MODERATOR: When talking about Cuba, Cuban dictatorship has survived nine U.S. presidents. What would you do differently, that has not been done so far, to bring democracy to Cuba? We're going to start with Senator Thompson.

THOMPSON: I'm going to make sure that he didn't survive 10 U.S. presidents.

Castro is unique in many respects.

THOMPSON: He represents the only non-democratic, at least, elected government in the hemisphere. He is uniquely brutal. He is still tyrannizing his own people.
He lures the vulnerable and the naive Americans down there and puts on shows for them and they come back and do his propaganda. There are not many people who can pull that sort of thing off.
He's obviously in bad health. That situation, probably, is in God's hands. He will probably be succeeded by someone who's no better than him, and that is Raul.
And we should treat Raul with the same contempt that we show Castro, including keeping the embargo on Cuba.


MODERATOR: For how long [would we need to leave our troops in Iraq]?

THOMPSON: The central point needs to be made, and all my colleagues are I think implying it, but I think it needs to be set out in a straightforward manner.
THOMPSON: We have yet to fully come to terms with the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a global conflict, a war by Islamic fascism that's been declared upon us, of which Iraq and Afghanistan are current fronts.
They are intent on bringing down Western civilization, and we're the number one target. It's just that simple.

If we leave Iraq with our tail between our legs, we are going to enhance their ability to recruit young people who, they too, can help bring down parts of America and maybe America itself.

We will leave an opening for Iran, as it, I still believe, continues to pursue a nuclear capability.

And it will provide a sanctuary for terrorists that does not exist anywhere in the world today.
All of this would make for a much more dangerous United States of America. That's why we must prevail.
And I agree with my colleagues. I believe that we are.

MODERATOR: Senator Thompson, what to do with the 15 million Hispanics who don't have insurance?

THOMPSON: The lower health care costs are, the more people will be insured. There's really two basic ways to lower health care costs: bigger government or more efficient markets.

Government could come in and say what it's going to cost everybody. And then we'd have long lines and waiting, wondering why we can't get radiation for a family member that has cancer and have to wait for months for it, and that sort of thing.

We totally, I think, all reject that.

I say, let's make our markets more efficient. We made a mistake in our tax code many years ago. We need to reverse that mistake so people are not so tied to their employment for their insurance.

They need, through the tax code, need to have the benefit of buying their own insurance through an open market with more sources, more people offering insurance, lifting regulations to make that happen.

THOMPSON: It would be portable so people could take their insurance with them from job to job.

As we know, people through a lifetime nowadays, have more jobs than they used to. I think that the markets have worked so often for us in so many different ways in this society. Free people competing with each other in free and open markets bring down costs. That's the way to get there.
MODERATOR: We'll continue live in Univision with this presidential forum. And we're going to talk about something else. We're going to talk about education.
A recent survey done for La Raza National Council show that nine out of 10 Hispanic voters think that improved public education should be a priority for the next president of the United States.

Let's start with Senator Thompson. What should we do to improve the public schools so our children will be educated in this country from coast to coast?

THOMPSON: First of all, I think we need to recognize where the responsibility lies. It would be easy enough for someone running for president to say: I have a several-point plan to fix our education problem. It's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen from the Oval Office.

We spend about 9 percent of education dollars now at the federal level. The responsibility historically and properly is at the state and local level.
I think, however, we can do things that would support choice, do things that would support vouchers, do things that would support homeschooling, and recognize that we need to speak the truth.

THOMPSON: One of the advantages of being in the Oval Office is having a bully pulpit. And the fact of the matter is, if families would stay together, if fathers would raise their children, especially young men when they get into troublesome ages, we would solve a good part of the education problem in this country.

MODERATOR: Senator Thompson, you -- how far can Hispanics get in this country?

THOMPSON: I think to help us be as strong as we can be and as good as we can be as Americans, I think the most important thing for Americans to be thinking about tonight is our national security, our future prosperity, for the children coming up behind us and our values.

The Hispanic community is traditionally strong in defending liberty and defending our nation's honor. They have had to fight their way, in many cases, just to come here and become a part of our society.

The Hispanic community is well-known as having a work ethic that is second to none.

THOMPSON: They ask for very little and contribute very much.
The Hispanic community is known for their values. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman, for example. They know that the family...

They know that the family is at the center of societies, and strong families build better societies. Those are things that they share with all other citizens of the United States...

MODERATOR: Thank you, Senator.

THOMPSON: ... and will make for a stronger country.


Conexion Americas' Celebration of Achievements December 10 at Vanderbilt

Hispanic Middle Tennesseans recognized for home ownership, business development and bilingual skills

From Vanderbilt News Service:
Programs promoting home ownership, business development and bilingual skills within the Middle Tennessee Hispanic community will be recognized Dec. 10 during Conexión Américas’ “Celebration of Achievements” at Vanderbilt University. The Center for the Americas at Vanderbilt will sponsor and host the event, which will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the university’s Buttrick Hall.

The Center for the Americas and Conexión Américas, a Nashville nonprofit organization that promotes the integration of Hispanic families into the community, will recognize families who have bought houses through its Puertas Abiertas/Open Doors home ownership program as well as individuals enrolled in Conversemos – a Spanish/English language exchange program.

“Hispanic families value home ownership because it represents a solid commitment to their integration into the community,” said Renata Soto, executive director of Conexión Américas. “Participants in the program are required to save toward their down payment and attend a home-buying class that gives them the tools to build their credit and become savvy about their future investments,” Soto said.

The Spanish/English Language Exchange Program pairs two individuals – one who speaks Spanish and the other English – so that they can help each other improve their foreign language skills. The program also fosters intercultural exchange between Tennesseans and Hispanic immigrants. “There is a myth going around that Hispanics coming to our city don’t want to learn English. This is absolutely not true,” Soto said.

“In working with the Latino immigrant community every day, we witness that one of its top priorities is to learn the language. They understand that this is of great importance to their success in building a life in this country.” Soto also said that a growing number of Tennesseans who realize the competitive advantage of bilingual skills and the importance of becoming familiar with Hispanic American cultures are interested in learning Spanish. This helps build bridges between the non-Hispanic local communities and their Hispanic neighbors.

“The Language Exchange Program, in particular, has forged close links between Nashville’s growing Hispanic-American community and Vanderbilt’s students and faculty,” said Vera M. Kutzinski, the Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of the Center for the Americas. This program is possible thanks to Vanderbilt student and Nashville professional volunteers who are interested in improving their ability to speak Spanish and are committed to helping newcomers improve their language skills.

Soto emphasized that speaking the language is a crucial step in the integration of Hispanic families into Tennessee, while starting a business and owning a home are crucial to fulfilling their goals. “We are thankful to have recipients of numerous grants and awards, including the 2007 Bank of America Community Award, and sponsorship of our programs and events,” she said. “The Nashville community and corporations that support us have been very generous with us, and this event is recognition of where their support is going – helping these families take one more step toward their integration and building their American dream.”

The Center for the Americas is an institute devoted to collaborative, interdisciplinary research for the benefit of the Americas. It brings together a variety of scholars and innovators to investigate the cultural, economic and political interactions among the countries and territories of the Western Hemisphere and between the region and other parts of the world. Using its research, the center develops and helps sustain lasting partnerships that solve problems of importance to the Americas. In the process, the center reshapes ways in which the academy conducts research, evaluates research results and trains future generations of scholars. For more information on the Center for the Americas, visit or call 615-343-2818.

Editor’s note: The “Celebration of Achievements” is by invitation only, but media are welcome to attend. Please email to RSVP

Friday, December 7, 2007

Art, food, and music of Latin Christmas at Cheekwood's Festival of the Holidays Sunday December 10

From Cheekwood:

From the Akiva School Choral Ensemble to Vanderbilt’s Victory A Capella Choir, Sunday, December 10 will be a day of sharing the unique traditions of four year-end holidays as Cheekwood hosts Festival of the Holidays with interactive multi-cultural activities on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Navidad.

“This is a special part of our Season of Celebration events,” Jack Becker, Ph.D., president of Cheekwood “It is a wonderful time for families to learn about the year-end holiday traditions of others and do so with a grand variety of fun family activities, all in one afternoon.”

Activities, from 1:00 pm-5:00 pm, include everything from hands-on art projects to sampling foods and music associated with each tradition. All activities will be held in Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Cheekwood thanks CLARCOR, Inc. for their support of this event as the Patron of the Day.
Following are performance times:

1:15 pm – HANUKKAH Sababa
Akiva School Choral Ensemble

2:15 pm – NAVIDAD Aurelio Martinez & Jose Alegria
La Posada

3:15 pm – KWANZAA A Surprise Kwanzaa Performance

4:15 pm – CHRISTMAS The Victory A Capella Choir
Vanderbilt University

Interactive activities associated with each of the traditions include:

Kwanzaa: participants learn how to make Kwanzaa candles; sample foods such as Janita bread, sweet potatoes, and turnip greens, all associated with Kwanzaa. Sponsored by Pam Thompson & Friends and The Jack and Jill Club of Williamson county.

Hanukkah: participants learn how to make paper dreidels; and enjoy a treat of Sufganiyot and Chanukah gelt. Sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

Navidad: participants sample Atole (hot chocolate), Buñuelos (Traditional Colombian Christmas food); Tamales; and learn how to make Paper Nativities. Sponsored by Woodbine Community Group & Catholic Charities – Latino Services.

Christmas: activities include making Clothespin Reindeer; and participants will be able to sample Christmas cookies and holiday punch.

Cheekwood’s Season of Celebration 2006 runs through December 31 and is a children’s wonderland of decorations, storytelling, cookie decorating, and musical performances as Cheekwood celebrates Christmas around the world.

Cheekwood inspires and educates by making art, horticulture and nature accessible to a diverse community. Cheekwood is located at 1200 Forrest Park Drive in Nashville, 8 miles southwest of downtown Nashville. Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For further information call 615-356-8000 or visit

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jose Feliciano wishes Nashville a Feliz Navidad at Schermerhorn December 14-15

From the Nashville Symphony:
For our special Christmas concert, why not bring in the very man who gave us "Feliz Navidad," a holiday classic known around the world? Singer and guitarist José Feliciano also known for mega-hits "Light My Fire" and "Que Sera" - is widely recognized as the first major Latin artist to cross over into the English-speaking music market, paving the way for so many big-name talents who came later. His signature sound, familiar from nearly 70 albums he's recorded throughout his career, will make this holiday celebration truly unique.
Discounts available through the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:
Click HERE to purchase tickets or call 615.687.6400. Please mention this announcement for a special 20% discount thanks to our NAHCC member Nashville Symphony

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cultural traditions featured tonight at MTSU's Celebrations of the Season

MTSU's Hispanic Student Association along with other school organization will be highlighting different cultural celebrations of the holiday season in tonight's Celebrations of the Season at the Tom Jackson Alumni Building at 6pm. The event will feature music from Lalo Davila and the MTSU Gospel Choir.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Nearly 9% of Metro suspensions were of Hispanic students last year

The Tennessean reported here that 8.9% of Metro suspensions last year were of Hispanic students.

For more on statistics or education, click on the links for education or statistics above.

Photo by Eduardo. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Felony immigration conviction, $2 million penalty for construction company that worked for Nashville Symphony, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital

Did unvisaed men and women do the "amazing work" at Schermerhorn?

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports here that Spectrum Interiors will forfeit $2 million in earnings from jobs in which unvisaed labor was used, with the nearby Kentucky councilman and head of Spectrum pleading guilty to a felony.

From the Enquirer:
Fort Wright [Kentucky] Councilman Jeff Wolnitzek has pleaded guilty to using illegal immigrant labor at his Crescent Springs-based construction company.

He will forfeit $2 million earned from employing illegal immigrants, according to a statement released by Wolnitzek's company, Spectrum Interiors.


He pleaded guilty on Nov. 21 to one felony count of conspiracy to harbor aliens for commercial advantage for personal financial gain.

The crime Wolnitzek pleaded to is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each illegal immigrant employed.


Besides the Ascent project, Spectrum's 265 employees have worked on other major construction projects, including Schermerhorn Symphony Hall and Vanderbilt University Children's Hospital, both in Nashville, Tenn.
The construction work at the Nashville Symphony's Schermerhorn Center was described as "amazing" in the 2007 Annual Report of the Nashville Symphony, according to a tribute to "everyone" who built it:
Just after the final notes of our Hard Hat Concert on June 28, 2006, composer Joan Tower, conductor Leonard Slatkin and orchestra members tipped their hats in a spontaneous gesture of appreciation to everyone who helped construct Schermerhorn Symphony Center. It signaled a genuine thank-you for the amazing work that delivered our wonderful building, in all its architectural detail and state-of-the-art technology, on budget and on time.
Photo: Nashville Symphony 2007 Annual Report
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