Friday, May 30, 2008

Reminder: Música de la Gente festival Saturday

Click here for the original story.

Young Dems hold Spring National Conference in Nashville; Minority Caucus meets today and tomorrow

Erica Contreras, National Chair of the Minority Caucus of the Young Democrats of America (YDA), sent out this invitation to participate in the YDA's Spring National Conference in Nashville this weekend:
Join local elected officials, candidates, young professionals and the Minority Caucus of YDA on Friday, May 30, 2008 in the Crockett Room of the Nashville Hilton downtown for a reception/fundraiser Friday night. All money raised will go toward the Empowerment Fund to help young dems of color attend future YDA meetings.

Then join us on Sat. May 31st at 10:30am for our meeting where we will discuss Keeping Dr. Martin Luther King's Dream Alive and the work he did for sanitation worker's rights. Confirmed speakers are Larry Smith, Director of Civil Rights of the United Auto Workers and David Welker from the Teamsters.

Visit or for more info.

Erica Contreras
National Chair
Minority Caucus of YDA

Latino Day at the Zoo: Sunday, June 1

SPANISH-TV and the Nashville Zoo will host "Latino Day at the Zoo" on Sunday, June 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This is one of two events at the Zoo this year that will cater to Nashville's Hispanic fans of fauna. The other event is called Dia Familiar at Nashville Zoo and will be part of Conexion Americas' Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in September.

Here is the "Latino Day at the Zoo" press release:

SPANISH-TV Presents Latino Day at the Zoo

Nashville Zoo and SPANISH-TV present the first Latino Day at the Zoo on Sunday, June 1. Activities will run from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., and SPANISH-TV hosts Sheyla Paz Hicks, Raul López, Karina Camilo and Alexis Martinez will be at the Zoo meeting guests.

Translators will be stationed throughout the Zoo, and Spanish language
maps and map inserts outlining the day's activities will be available. The Zoo’s award-winning animal shows and Historic Home tours will be offered in Spanish. Zoo staff and docents will also work with translators to deliver educational presentations and answer guests’ questions about:

Hyacinth Macaws: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Giraffes: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Clouded Leopards: 10 a.m. – Noon
Gibbons: Noon – 1 p.m.
Bengal Tigers: 2 – 3 p.m.

Discounted admission coupons for Latino Day can be picked up at La Reyna Supermercado 1 & 2, Las Cazuelas Mexican Grill, La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Azeca Restaurant, Los Arcos, Jalisco Market, Periodico Latino Newspaper, La Campana Newspaper, Latina 900 AM and La Ley 1380 AM.

Latino Day at the Zoo is the result of a partnership between Nashville Zoo and SPANISH-TV. SPANISH-TV launched in 2006 and airs on Telemundo Nashville, Middle Tennessee’s sole Spanish-speaking network. For more information about SPANISH-TV, visit

Nashville Zoo is accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums, assuring the highest standards of animal care and husbandry. The Zoo is a non-profit organization located at 3777 Nolensville Road and is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The mission of the Nashville Zoo is to inspire a culture of understanding and discovery of our natural world through conservation, innovation and leadership. For more information about Nashville Zoo, please call 833-1534 or visit our website at
Photo by Jeffrey Peeden. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Formal reprimand for Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge who overemphasized immigration

Second censure for discriminatory conduct

"Perceived predetermination as to Hispanic individuals"

Violations of Canons of Judicial Ethics, U.S. Constitution, TN Constitution

Short of removal, censure is "highest degree of judicial discipline authorized by law"

In balance of laws and rights, equal protection trumps immigration

The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary issued a public censure and this letter formally reprimanding Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge A. Andrew Jackson for his habit of issuing rulings against juveniles based solely on the real or perceived immigration status of the children and parents appearing before him. This includes a "perceived predetermination as to Hispanic individuals."

Jerry Gonzalez, who filed the complaint against Judge Jackson and was profiled by the Nashville Scene in 2004 (story here), explained the problem to the American Bar Association Journal as one of Sippenhaft, or kin liability:
"The judge would rule the juvenile was unruly if he found the parents to be disrespectful of the law," the lawyer, Jerry Gonzalez is quoted saying. "Under the statute, being unruly has nothing to do with the parents. They could be drug dealers and it doesn't mean you are."
According to the July 2007 Tennessee Bar Journal, this is the second time in two years that Judge Jackson has received this level of censure for discriminatory conduct:
On May 24, the Court of the Judiciary issued a public censure to Judge A. Andrew Jackson of Dickson County for inappropriate behavior at an August 2006 Juvenile Justice Conference in Memphis. On the evening of Aug. 7, Jackson overindulged in the consumption of alcohol to the extent that he was unable to remember some of the evening’s events. An African-American conference attendee, however, remembers asking Jackson about job opportunities in his area and that Jackson responded with disparaging references about the man’s race and ethnicity. Shortly thereafter, Jackson profanely referred to a conference attendee from Pennsylvania and physically pushed the person. Later that night, Jackson endeavored to coax a female conference attendee to join him on the dance floor. When she resisted, Jackson made a crude sexual remark.
The text of the formal letter of reprimand for the immigration-related conduct is here:
May 16, 2008


A. Andrew Jackson
Dickson County General Sessions Judge
4000 Highway 48
North Suite 1
Charlotte, TN 37036


In re: Complaint of Jerry Gonzales against Judge A. Andrew Jackson
File No. 07-3154

Dear Judge Jackson:

This shall serve as a public censure pursuant to your agreement with the Investigative Panel of this court and in compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 17-5-301 (f) (5). This reprimand relates to your actions as the Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge in hearing cases in which children appeared before you who were illegal aliens, children of illegal aliens, or perceived by you as being illegal aliens. In juvenile cases in which the defendant juvenile had illegal or questionable legal status in the United States, you consistently determined that the child was dependent and neglected when the petition before you did not seek to have the child declared dependent and neglected and that you also when informed that this was inappropriate conduct, determined each child to be unruly, jailing these juveniles as a result of their status, their parents’ status or your perceived view of the status. This course of conduct was demonstrated in hearings held before you March 14, 2007, April 18, 2007 and May 2, 2007 in the case of a juvenile identified for the purpose of this letter as R. I. so as to protect that juvenile’s identify. In those proceedings you repeatedly asked counsel and the child “if he was illegal.” You announced to counsel your predetermination of the case when you stated “Mr. Taylor, you know what I’m going to do on that don’t you, might as well go on and get your appeal set up.” These statements led to laughter in the courtroom and because of your perceived predetermination as to Hispanic individuals appearing before you. You also in this hearing told the representatives of the child to “Get on over there and get Birch to sign it. It always just irritates me to no end,” referring to the requirement of counsel to seek an immediate appeal from your predetermined judgments and incarceration for juveniles in matters dealing in this particular case with a charge of speeding, expired permit and a seat belt violation.

Your actions in this and other juvenile cases violated Supreme Court Rule 10, Canon 1 requiring a judge to uphold the integrity and independent of the judiciary, Canon 2 requiring a judge to respect and comply with the law, Canon 3 B (2) requiring a judge to be faithful to the law and to maintain professional competence in it, Canon 3 B (5) requiring a judge to perform his judicial duties without biased and prejudice and your conduct in dealing with these juveniles deprived those individuals of equal protection of the law as required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the equal protection provisions of the Tennessee Constitution. In addition to the violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and state and federal constitutional rights, your conduct detrimentally affects the integrity of the Tennessee judiciary and undermines public confidence in the administration of justice.

This public censure represents the highest degree of judicial discipline authorized by law short of the Court seeking a judgment recommending your removal as a judge from office. In the future, you are to accord all persons who appear before you equal protection of the law and to decide their case on an independent and fair basis.


Don R. Ash
Presiding Judge
Court of the Judiciary

cc. Investigative Panel
Disciplinary Counsel
Photo by Michael Galkovsky. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NPT debuts original series about Nashville immigrants

"Challenged by isolation and barriers unknown to many Nashvillians"

Explores Nashville’s status as "destination city"

First installment, tonight: Little Kurdistan, USA

The Tennessean published this story about the new, original documentary from Nashville Public Television: Next Door Neighbors: Little Kurdistan, USA. Airing Wednesday at 8pm, it is the first in a series about immigrants in Nashville.

Just yesterday, NBC's Today Show identified Nashville as one of the "5 friendliest cities in America." Nashville's reputation for hospitality is often intertwined with the welcome the city extends to immigrants (see story here).

From the NPT press release:
Over the past thirty years, Kurdish immigrants in Nashville have started the first Kurdish Mosque in the United States and opened businesses, restaurants, markets and bakeries, building what is now the largest Kurdish population in North America. On Wednesday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m., Nashville Public Television (NPT) introduces the city to this thriving community with the premiere of NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS: LITTLE KURDISTAN, USA, the first in a new series of documentary programs under the NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS banner.

“As refugees, Kurds have overcome significant barriers to survive and flourish in Nashville,” says Will Pedigo, the program’s writer, producer and director. "They arrive as outsiders; estranged from their homeland and strangers in their new home. With this documentary, and the future installments in the Next Door Neighbors series, we hope to encourage Nashville to make strides towards a greater awareness of its diversity and provide an avenue for interaction among all our neighbors.”

The first significant wave of Kurds arrived in Nashville in 1976. They have since established a vibrant community recognized by Kurds nationally for its strong cultural and traditional heritage. The half-hour NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS: LITTLE KURDISTAN, USA examines how these Kurds have adapted to life in Nashville and provides insight into the struggles refugees face as they build new lives in a new home. The documentary explores what it means to be Kurdish, and reflects on the journey Kurds make as they become Kurdish-Americans trying to assimilate into American culture and still hold on to their traditions. In addition to meeting a variety of Kurdish immigrants and Kurdish-Americans, viewers will also visit Azadi International Foods for fresh-baked Kurdish bread, go inside the Salahadeen Center, the first Kurdish Mosque in the United States, and hear about life in Nashville from younger generations of Kurds.

The NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS series looks at Nashville’s status as a new destination city for refugees and immigrants, and explores the rich diversity of people now calling Nashville home. Across the United States, mid-sized cities like Nashville are experiencing unprecedented growth in their international populations. Together these communities are redefining the traditional international city on a smaller local scale.

“As our new neighbors rebuild their lives in Nashville,” says Pedigo, “their experiences, contributions and conflicts impact the city. They are also challenged by isolation and barriers unknown to many Nashvillians. How Nashville addresses its changing demographic will be important for the future of similar communities across the country.”

The NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS series will include in-depth web content at, public forums and feature a panel discussion after each of the four programs.

NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS: LITTLE KURDISTAN, USA is made possible through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s My Source initiative and is supported by The HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA and the TriStar Family of Hospitals. A partnership with the Vanderbilt University Center for Nashville Studies provided valuable research and community outreach.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In balance of laws and rights, marriage beats immigration

"Fundamental right" restored

Davidson County Clerk forever holds his peace, at least for now

The Tennessean reports here that a state law that requires proof of immigration status to get a marriage license is an overreaching into the "fundamental right" of people to marry each other, at least according to the Tennessee Attorney General and the Davidson County Clerk.

The Tennessean says that the bride-to-be at the heart of the story, Nashville lawyer Vanessa Saenz, sued Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen on April 21, challenging the Tennessee law that was the basis of the Davidson County Clerk's refusal to issue Saenz a certificate to marry "the man of her choice." The Tennessee Attorney General then issued an opinion siding with Saenz - echoing federal courts going back to 1967 that have said that the government cannot use certain reasons to restrict the individual right to marry. The Davidson County Clerk reversed its policy in light of the TN AG decision, and because Saenz was no longer barred from marrying the "man of her choice," the State of Tennessee moved for dismissal of Saenz's litigation against Governor Bredesen.

Theresa Harmon of Tennesseans for Responsible Immigration Policy told the Tennessean that she's "had to do some hard soul-searching on these kinds of issues." (Another comment from Harmon framed the immigration debate as a fight for legitimacy; see this post from Nashville blogger Aunt B.)

Prior to the Saenz case, Nashville congregations with unvisaed churchgoers had organized trips to Kentucky to wed, since the Bluegrass State did not have the immigration-related barriers that were found here in Tennessee. The Tennessean reports that last year, for example, St. Edward Catholic Church "coordinated a trip for 20 mostly Hispanic couples to obtain marriage licenses and legally wed in Kentucky, where clerks don't require immigration-related paperwork. [Rev. Joseph] Breen then married them in the church when they returned." (Question - could driving the couples to Kentucky have constituted a federal crime?)

Update 5/28/08: As a result of the AG position, "[a]ll Tennessee counties were told Tuesday they must follow Davidson County's lead and begin issuing marriage licenses to would-be brides and grooms without regard to their immigration status," according to this story in the Tennessean.

Photo by Tim Forbes. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Arrest near Nashville for driving foreign passengers without visas

Jose Jasso-Cuevas "convicted of the same federal crime in 2004"

"Unrealistic immigration laws encourage the black market"

The Nashville City Paper reported here on the arrest on I-40 in Dickson County of a man driving a vanload of 18 unvisaed passengers. The man was paid $550 per passenger for taking them to various parts of the country, including Tennessee.

Catalina Nieto, public awareness coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, was quoted by the Tennessean as saying, "Our unrealistic immigration laws encourage the black market for immigrant workers." (story here)

From the City Paper:
The van was driven by a man named Jose Jasso-Cuevas, and this was not his first cross-country trip.

Cuevas is now somewhere in the federal prison system, charged with a violation of federal code for transporting illegal aliens, according to court documents. It is an act federal officials and others involved in combating the practice refer to colloquially as human smuggling.

[ICE Agent Stephen] McCormick’s affidavit and other paperwork in the federal prosecution of Cuevas state there were 18 passengers crammed into the non-descript van, which Cuevas told authorities he had driven to Tennessee on behalf of a “transport company” in Houston. It was not Cuevas’ first trip for that company or in this line of work.

He told authorities he had made three or four trips on behalf of the same company, and that each undocumented persons on board was to pay him $550 once they were delivered to places across the South — Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Apparently, the system for delivering the illegal immigrants was to call a telephone number when he arrived in various states to get the information about where to drop each passenger.

It would not have been Cuevas’ first time in South Carolina. He was convicted of the same federal crime in 2004 there that he is now charged with in Nashville. Court records show he was released with a sentence of time served.
Photo by Mo Riza. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Memoriam: Air Force Senior Airman Pedro I. Espaillat Jr. and Army Lt. Richard Torres

Torres: son of Peruvian immigrants, 3.9 GPA at Austin Peay, Purple Heart and Bronze Star

Espaillat: came to Maury County from Dominican Republic, honors at Spring Hill HS, enlisted week before 9/11

This Memorial Day, the Hispanic Nashville Notebook remembers two Hispanic servicemen who came to Tennessee before their names were added to the lists of the fallen:

Army Lt. Richard Torres was the first Austin Peay ROTC graduate killed in combat since the school began the program in 1971. ... Torres grew up in Passaic, New Jersey, the son of Peruvian immigrants Dora and Gulian Torres, and during his childhood he discovered his interest in military service. ... The Rev. Antonio Rodriguez, pastor at Holy Trinity Church, performed the liturgy in both English and Spanish for those who had traveled from Tennessee, Texas and Peru to pay their final respects. ... entered the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., where Torres got a three-year scholarship and maintained a 3.9 grade-point average. ... "His dream was to retire in the military and get his master's and teach at West Point. He said he wasn't going to stop until he got his doctorate. He said, 'Watch, one day, I'll be the president of the United States.' " ... Richard Torres was posthumously honored with a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star

Air Force Senior Airman Pedro I. Espaillat Jr. came to Maury County in 1993 with his mother and two brothers from the Dominican Republic. His father, an assembly worker at Saturn Corp., had arrived about three years earlier. ... a 2001 honors graduate at Spring Hill High School ... chose to enlist ... one week before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Luna Negra modern dance on 2008-2009 TPAC Education agenda

TPAC Education announced its 2008-2009 Season for Young People, featuring "a culturally diverse mix of music, theatre, comedy and dance for young people."

According to the press release, "Highlights of the upcoming annual season of TPAC Education’s “Humanities Outreach in Tennessee” (HOT) include the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Nashville Opera’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, two native North American works, Latino modern dance, and theatre from the United States, Canada, England, Italy and Scotland. During its 27th year, TPAC Education’s curriculum-based programs will serve up to 40,000 students from pre-school through high school, providing teachers with comprehensive resources."

“This year’s season is more diverse than any we’ve ever presented—a full spectrum of literature, history, art, and culture from around the world,” said Sherri Leathers, TPAC Education’s Director of Programming.

Luna Negra Dance Theater will perform October 29-31 and is described as a Chicago-based company dedicated to Latino choreography, featuring Hispanic artists and music.

TPAC Education supplies guidebooks for each production with lesson plan suggestions and study materials for use before and after the performance, identifying “learning links” to curriculum requirements, including history, literature, language arts, science and social studies. Post-performance discussions and in-school visits also may be scheduled.

Financial assistance is available to subsidize ticket and travel costs for eligible students and school systems.

For reservations or more information, visit or call 615-687-4288.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Border Patrol recruiting African-Americans in Nashville

"Here without authority" once applied to "free Negroes" in Nashville

WKRN reported here that the U.S. Border Patrol is recruiting in Nashville this week and is particularly interested in African-Americans, acknowledging that only 1.5% of 16,000 agents are African-American, and of those, only eight are women.

At the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, the comment was rightly made that "because it's a federal agency it should represent the population as far as who they hire."

There is no mention, however, of the irony of Nashville African-Americans telling people to stay out, especially in light of
  • the Nashville sit-ins, in which African-Americans were arrested for going where they were told it was illegal for them to be, with then-Mayor Ben West saying,
    As God is my helper, the law is going to be enforced in Nashville;
  • this comment made in Nashville at the 1871 State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Tennessee:
    But we will gladly hail all voluntary free labor to elevate the laborer, whether from Europe, Asia, Africa or the West Indies, and extend a brother hand to secure him in his liberty the right to his toil and to uphold this government upon equality....;
  • and this 1856 Davidson County resolution ordering magistrates and constables in each civil district to
    serve legal notice on all free Negroes within such district to leave the state, who are here without authority.
Photo by cobalt. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Music of the People Festival May 31

Música de le Gente / Music of the People Festival

American Roots Music Education and Metro Parks and Recreation celebrate the music of Mexican-Americans

A festive and FREE celebration of Mexican-American music will be presented by American Roots Music Education and Metro Parks and Recreation on Saturday, May 31, 2008 at the newly renovated Coleman Park Community Center.

Throughout the afternoon there will be lots of live music from local bands, including Ocho Treinta, Son Latino and Danny Salazar y Trova Urbana. At 5:00 pm the internationally renowned group from San Antonio, Texas, Los Texmaniacs, will perform.

Children can participate in crafts such as making paper flowers, cowboy hats, embossed tin boxes, lizard keychains and rhythm instruments. A children's folklorico group will perform at 3:30 and there will be lots of piñatas, an exhibit of visual art by Latino artists, and plenty of dancing. Food and drink will be available for sale from local vendors.

FREE and open to the public

Date: Saturday, May 31, 2008
Time: 12:00 - 6:30 PM
Location: Coleman Park Community Center
(corner of Nolensville Road and Thompson Lane), Nashville, TN
Good weather -- outside! Not-so-good weather -- in the gym!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Three arrests reveal Franklin-Mexico drug connection

"Large sums of money"

WSMV reports here that Franklin Police busted drug runners funneling cocaine from Mexico to Nashville and wiring "large sums of money" back to Mexico in return. Three arrests were made.

A similar bust was made by Metro and Brentwood police in June 2005 (story here).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hondurans inspire Nashville teens, doctors, hospital, church

Surgery, Spanish majors, call to missions result from visits to Central American nation

The Nashville City Paper reported here about Escarleth Betancourt-Gutierrez, a 15-year-old Honduran girl, and her spinal surgery in Nashville courtesy of support from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Dr. James Netterville, Dr. Greg Mencio, and Harpeth Hills Church of Christ:
Netterville discovered Escarleth’s condition two years ago and pulled strings to bring her to Nashville. Dr. Greg Mencio performed the spinal surgery for free and Netterville’s congregation donated the $5,000 for materials needed to perform the procedure.
Young members of the Harpeth Hills congregation have been inspired by their trips to Honduras, according to this report by proud grandfather Bailey McBride:
Savanna and her brother, Luke, have gone to Honduras since he was 16 and she was 13. They immediately made a connection with the children of Jovenes en Camino, an orphanage near Tegucigalpa. Through the years, they have strengthened their connections in Honduras. Both have studied Spanish in high school. Luke has recently returned from a Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica and will graduate from college with a Spanish major. Savanna will go to college this fall with five years of high school Spanish and plans to major in Spanish and prepare for a life of missions.
Photo: Escarleth Betancourt-Gutierrez and her mother (source: Vanderbilt Children's Hospital)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dominic de la Osa finishing strong for Vandy baseball

Vanderbilt's Dominic de la Osa is finishing his senior year on the varsity baseball team with impressive performances in regular season play. From the Tennessean:

Though de la Osa hasn't been able to reprise the numbers he posted his junior year, he has heated up for the Commodores' stretch run. All four of his hits against Georgia were for extra bases, including a pair of homers. At the same time, it's not as if professional talent evaluators aren't familiar with his capabilities.
According to his official profile, de la Osa is from Miami and is the son of Catherine Valdes and Carlos de la Osa. Coach Corbin calls him "one of the best players in the country."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MNPS Principal Del Rio receives Statewide recognition

Contribution by Cesar A. Muedas

The Tennessean reports today on the award and ceremony as reproduced below.
Three Nashville-area public school principals were among 18 in Tennessee whom an education-focused organization recognized this week for excellence.
In a ceremony Monday at the state Capitol, the Education Consumers Foundation honored principals whom it called "the best of the best" in advancing students academically. Among them are:
Mary Lou Del Rio of Paragon Mills Elementary in Metro Nashville.
• Brian Bass of Fairview Middle School in Williamson County.
• Johnny Chandler of Dickson Middle School in Dickson County.
The winners were selected from the more than 1,300 public elementary and middle schools statewide, based on year-to-year gains in reading and math. Schools whose students make the greatest annual achievement gains earn the highest value-added scores.
Mrs. Mary Lou Del Rio, an educator with more than 30 years of experience, is the wife of Mr. Luis del Rio, a retired coach, bilingual interpreter, and a prominent Cuban-American in the advisory board of COPLA (Comite de Padres Latinos, the council of Hispanic parents with children in Metro schools).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzalez talk family, music, and Nashville

"I no longer find my identity in my music anymore."

Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) artists Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzalez recently gave this joint interview to Christian Music Today. Velasquez is a popular CCM solo artist, and Gonzalez is the lead singer of the band Salvador.

The two married on December 17, 2006, and this interview focuses on how their relationship so far, dubbing them as "young Latin lovers." The couple lives in Nashville and gave birth to a son, Zealand David Gonzales, on November 3, 2007.

From the interview:
Jaci, you've been at the top of the charts for a long time and a favorite in Christian pop. Have the aspirations changed for you now that you're a mother?

Velasquez: My career, my ministry is all important, though I no longer find my identity in my music anymore. My identity is now in my relationship with God and my two boys. That's what I love the most, though I still love making music. And Zealand loves me making music—[I could tell when] he was in my tummy making the [latest] record. He would wake up in my stomach, and to soothe him, I would have to sing. He would also get really upset if someone was singing off key on the TV or something. So I'd sing to him and it would soothe him and he'd listen to me. Now he's still the same way—when his mommy or his daddy sing, it soothes him. It's really sweet.

It made for a different experience making a record, putting things into perspective. It used to be that I would remember what was going on in my life by the record that I was doing at the time. The reality of it was [my life] was only based around that. Making music is a big part of my life, but it's just not my life.

Nic, you're a lifelong Austin boy. What was it like making the move to Nashville?

Gonzalez: I don't want to speak ill of Nashville because it's a good city, but it's not Austin. My wife lives here, and I love my wife, so that made it easy. It was easier for us because we both have careers here and she just happens to have a couple of things going on a little bit more than I do. I was able to live in Austin to hide away from all of it, but Jaci's face is a little more identified with this area. She works more out of here, so it only made sense [to make the move].

Tim Chávez launches Political Salsa

The Nashville Scene let Music City know here that Tim Chávez has started his own blog - Political Salsa. The Scene reported last September (see here) that Chávez had been fired as a columnist of the Tennessean after his absence due to leukemia. At the time, Chávez said that "he regrets more than anything not having a farewell column to thank his readers for their good wishes."

Chávez tells the Hispanic Nashville Notebook that his goal for the new site is to "concentrate at least four to five days a week on political happenings nationally and locally for Hispanics."

Political Salsa joins a growing list of local Hispanic blogs including Bilingual in the Boonies, Coyote Chronicles, and Mario Ramos' Visa Blog.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother-entrepreneur spot on Talk of the Town features Los Pollitos Dicen

Bilingual in the Boonies has links here to a Talk of the Town piece on Mamamade, a group of businesses owned by Nashville-area mothers.

Los Pollitos Dicen is one of the businesses featured, via an interview of Cuban-American businessowner Carrie Ferguson Weir.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Deaths of ordinary immigrants puts Corrections Corporation of America on front page of NYT

Thirteen lose their lives behind CCA walls, some cases never previously made public

"Basic standards of decency and fairness... means lifting the veil"

If you have a loved one who was born outside the U.S. and is not yet a citizen here, please read the front-page Monday New York Times article about deaths in immigrant detention. If you live in Nashville, not only are your tax dollars paying to incarcerate non-criminals in some cases, but the name of your corporate neighbor Corrections Corporation of America is part of the story. And it's not the first time CCA's connection to the federal immigration bureaucracy enforcement is the subject of major media scrutiny. Just two months ago, the New Yorker put the spotlight on CCA for its former prison facilities which now house ordinary children and their families. And to my knowledge, this streak of bad press about a Nashville corporate citizen has still not been the subject of any investigative journalism in the Nashville papers, either in a story about CCA itself or in the context of the nomination of CCA in-house counsel Gus Puryear to the federal bench.

Put yourself or your loved one in the shoes of the detained immigrants and families featured in these stories.

Here are excerpts from Monday's front-page article:
Mr. Bah’s relatives never saw the internal records labeled “proprietary information — not for distribution” by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the New Jersey detention center for the federal government.
Four days after the fall, tipped off by a detainee who called Mr. Bah’s roommate in Brooklyn, relatives rushed to the detention center to ask Corrections Corporation employees where he was.

“They wouldn’t give us any information,” said Lamine Dieng, an American citizen who teaches physics at Bronx Community College and is married to Mr. Bah’s cousin Khadidiatou.
The Public Health Service did not respond to questions, and the Corrections Corporation said medical decisions were the responsibility of the Public Health Service.
Four sons in another family, in Sacramento, described trying for days to get medical care for their father, Maya Nand, a 56-year-old legal immigrant from Fiji, at a detention center run by the Corrections Corporation in Eloy, Ariz.
From an article focusing on the Nand family:
Mr. Nand, a legal immigrant from Fiji who was diabetic, had been calling his family with mounting desperation over a 10-day period, the sons said. Already ailing when he was abruptly taken into custody at the family’s home in Sacramento early in the morning of Jan. 13, 2005, he had deteriorated after a week at the Arizona detention center, which is run for the federal government by Corrections Corporation of America, a publicly traded prison company.
Asked about Mr. Nand’s treatment, Corrections Corporation officials said in a written statement that he had been medically screened when he arrived at the Eloy center, seen and treated “multiple times” by its medical staff, and taken to a hospital. According to a government list of deaths in immigration custody, Mr. Nand was one of five detainees to die at Eloy within a 26-month period; none of the deaths have previously been brought to public attention.
From another article in the series:
Privately run centers had 32 percent of the deaths, even though they housed only 19 percent of detainees over all, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

There are more than 300 detention centers around the country, but one private operator, the Corrections Corporation of America, had 13 deaths in its centers...
From the New York Times editorial on the series:
The government urgently needs to bring the detention system up to basic standards of decency and fairness. That means lifting the veil on detention centers — particularly the private jails and the state prisons and county jails that take detainees under federal contracts — and holding them to the same enforceable standards that apply to prisons.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

NAACP at last week's immigrant vigil

The Tennessean reported here that among the approximately fifty people at last week's vigil were people identifying them as "'student,' 'musician,' 'woman,' 'Christian,' and 'advocate.'" Also in attendance were representatives from the AFL-CIO and the NAACP, according to the article.

Excerpts from the article:
"I wanted to show my support for these poor people who are essentially being punished for working hard," said Gregg Ramos, a Nashville attorney and self-described "advocate" who attended the vigil in Nashville. "I wish we in America would treat them better."

Representatives from the AFL-CIO, NAACP and other groups were present.

Ramos says there is virtually no way for most foreign-born workers to enter and work in the U.S. legally because only 5,000 visas are given to low-skilled workers each year.
Consumers and companies have benefited from the labor of illegal workers. But, illegal workers are generally punished alone when caught, advocates say.
Read the earlier story about the vigil here.

Photo courtesy of Yuri Cunza.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lime gets another Tennessean review

The Tennessean heads back to Lime for this review. Among the good stuff: "one of the best margaritas in town" and the "excellent sangrita from scratch."

I didn't even know there was such a drink as a sangrita (I would have thought sangrita was a typo for sangria), but Wikipedia backs up our local daily on this one (article on sangrita here).

Photo by Michael Dietsch. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Year of service in Nicaragua, Ecuador awaits two Vandy grads

Manna Project International is humanitarian organization formed by Vanderbilt students

"It’s about me saying, ‘Let me enter into this with you.’"

From the Vanderbilt News Service:
La Chureca, the city dump on the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua, could be the setting for a dreary, futuristic movie. A city of scavengers, many of them orphans, they live in the filthy heaps of refuse at this municipal garbage dump. Clothed in rags, they rummage for food, scrounging out a meager existence by selling the small trinkets or recyclables they find, or sometimes selling their own bodies to survive.

A graduating senior at Vanderbilt, Emily Lineberger, plans to dedicate a year following graduation this May to helping these otherwise hopeless orphans through Manna Project International, a humanitarian organization formed by Vanderbilt students to bring hope to some of the poorest communities in the Western Hemisphere.

Senior Duncan Fulton, a Spanish and European studies major, also has signed on with Manna. After graduation he’ll spend a year in Quito as a program director for Manna’s newest site in Ecuador. A Dallas native, who studied for a year in Madrid and visited Nicaragua on a spring break trip, has deferred entrance into Tulane University Law School until after his year in Quito. He hopes to create educational and legal aid programs there.

Seniors Holly Ward and Tressa Hoektra have signed on to go to Ecuador and Nicaragua, respectively.

Formed in 2004, Manna is run and staffed predominantly by Vanderbilt students and alumni. The organization is best known for its year-long immersion experience in Managua, and more recently, Quito, but also offers a spring break trip and a summer program.

Lineberger, a human and organizational development major from Winston-Salem, N.C., counts herself among the many in her class who have not lacked for “the creature comforts in life.” While she could have taken the summer off to prepare for graduate school, law school or the corporate world, instead she plans to shed “the Vanderbilt bubble” to serve as a program director for Manna’s Managua site for 13 months.

“I want to stay for a year so that I’m not just another American stepping in to ‘fix’ things and then leave,” Lineberger said. “It’s about me saying, ‘Let me enter into this with you.’ It’s about shedding my vanity, being stripped of materialism and getting outside this beautiful, sheltered place called Vanderbilt.”

During her sophomore year at Vanderbilt, Lineberger heard about Manna from a friend and decided to sign up for a spring break trip to Nicaragua. Her week there included working with children at a pre-school, repairing a playground facility and helping teach English and nutrition classes.

Lineberger thought she was prepared for the country’s living conditions, but found herself overwhelmed when she arrived at La Chureca. An estimated 1,500 people call the city dump home – more than half of them under the age of 18 – and are plagued by malnutrition, disease and heartbreak.

“It was animalistic; I have never seen anything like it,” she said. “It was shocking to hear personal accounts from the children, who sniffed glue because they were so hungry – it was their only escape. And to hear girls saying that their fathers sent them out to prostitute themselves to the garbage collectors in order to get the best scraps – you can’t describe it.”

Lineberger said that week in Nicaragua was less about making a difference in the Nicaraguans’ lives than being changed herself.

“You can’t make much of a difference in a few days. It’s just not possible,” she said. “But once you’ve seen what goes on there, you are forever changed. Once you have seen it, you can’t go back home and forget about it. You have to do something.”

Lineberger will live in a rented house in Managua with other college graduates, many of them from Vanderbilt. Like her fellow volunteers, she has raised $7,000 to pay for her food, housing and program fees for the year. During that time she will set up community outreach programs based on her interest in health education.

“I like the idea of counseling, emotional stability and health,” she said. “I want to work with kids and families and show them how to have a sense of pride in having a healthy body.”

Fulton agrees that the students won’t be able to change the world but they will do what they can.

“I can’t change the legal system,” Fulton said. “But I want to try setting up some programs that will help people. In the end, I think the experience will affect how and in what areas I choose to practice law.”

One of Manna’s founders, Lori Scharffenberg, has been in Nicaragua since the program’s inception. She and others designed the organization to provide a tangible way for students and recent graduates to make a long-term investment in community service. They also wanted students to be able to serve in areas that they enjoyed and were passionate about. That formula seems to be working.

“We believe that by bringing the community together, each with our individual passions, we can serve another community with a holistic approach,” Scharffenberg said.

The organization currently has three staff members and 13 volunteers, and more than 400 individuals have participated in the program since its creation. In addition, approximately 65 Vanderbilt students have traveled under Manna’s banner to other international sites hosted by partner organizations for spring break trips, including Peru, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico and El Salvador.

While traveling abroad presents concerns for personal health, safety and maybe even homesickness, Lineberger is more anxious about how she’ll be changed emotionally by the experience.

“The biggest challenge right now is the idea that I am about to have my whole worldview rocked,” she said. “It’s different than a short-term trip. When you live somewhere for a year, it becomes your community and you are forced to see the issues right in front of you. You can’t hide. It’s going to be scary, but it’s also going to be life-changing.”

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tim Chavez: with Papal call for hospitality, Our Lady of Guadalupe raises almost $1 million for new space

Church officials push to retire building debt

"God has provided us with a new, young and church-going workforce"

By Tim Chavez

In his recent visit to our country, Pope Benedict XVI repeatedly asked that this nation and especially its Catholics reach out to the growing number of Hispanic immigrants.

In middle Tennessee, Catholics have an immediate and blessed opportunity to honor the pontiff's wishes. And the checks they'll be receiving in the mail from the federal government can be the stuff of making an ongoing miracle here a permanent inspiration and institution.

The Rev. Joseph Patrick Breen, pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church in Nashville, is starting a campaign to retire the debt of the Nashville diocese's only Hispanic Catholic Church, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Father Breen and his congregation have put the financial viability of their own parish and K-8 school on the line to make Our Lady of Guadalupe in Nashville a reality. It opened amid much celebration last December. But the church's future can only be secured if the debt incurred to open its doors can be retired by June.

Father Breen and the good people of St. Edward have so far raised $900,000 for the $1.5 million in debt. The diocese is not going to ride to the rescue. So this one congregation and this one priest have made it their responsibility to meet the needs of all of the Nashville area's Catholic Hispanics.

That's an incredible weight to carry. But Pope Benedict's plea to America's Catholics to help our growing immigrant population shows clearly that this responsibility should be shared by more than one parish and priest. And middle Tennessee Catholics and their parishes are fortunate to have Our Lady of Guadalupe available to make the kind of difference the Holy Father wants. While he surely appreciated all the waves and ovations during his visit, acting on his words would be the most fitting tribute.

Here is what has already happened at Our Lady's since it opened in December. About 5,000 Catholics crowd into the church for weekend masses. It is so crowded that St. Edward parish council member Sunny Brown stood out front on busy Nolensville Road to direct traffic.

"It is on its way to becoming the biggest Catholic church in the diocese," Brown told the St. Edward congregation at last Saturday's 5 p.m. mass. "Most of the families are less than 35 years of age. Many of the families are less than 25 years of age."

How blessed by God we Americans are. At a time when this nation is fastly aging as more and more baby boomers retire, God has provided us with a new, young and church-going workforce. The Social Security fund is supposed to go bankrupt by the year 2019 without congressional action. The fund would go bankrupt two years earlier if not for the payroll contributions of these new Hispanic workers, according to the Associated Press.

Some people, however, have decided to choose political sides concerning the growing Hispanic presence here. The people of St. Edward instead have simply chosen God's side as expressed by the pope in his visit.

Father Breen and his parish council and finance team are now asking parishoners to give all or part of their tax rebate checks they'll be receiving to retire Our Lady's debt. That's a lot to ask amid rising gas prices and a recession.

But there truly is good work ongoing at Our Lady's. Surrounding Hispanic businesses donate vats of food every week so that every churchgoer will be assured one complete meal a week on Sundays. English language classes and programs to familiarize newcomers to local laws and requirements are conducted. For instance, Father Breen and Father Fernando Garcia, Our Lady's pastor, have started a child car seat collection drive to make sure Hispanic families keep their young ones buckled up the right way.

What's transpiring at Our Lady's truly is a miracle. Where there was previously a Baptist church that was losing its congregation to the suburbs is now a thriving Catholic church in a revitalized urban setting of small and prosperous Hispanic businesses. But to ensure its future and to serve so many, its debt must be retired by a June deadline.

Please, consider being a part of this miracle. Your donation of a check can be made out to "Our Lady of Guadalupe Church". Send it to the attention of Father Breen at St. Edward Catholic Church, 188 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37211.

Or you can sign on to the St. Edward Web site at On the left side of the opening page under "Main Menu" is a place to click on information about Our Lady of Guadalupe and a place to make a credit card donation.

More than 55 years ago, my mother married my father at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Topeka, Kan. It was a place of refuge and respect for Hispanic Catholics there and then, including my father and his four brothers who had just returned from World War II.

The need for refuge continues for a new set of immigrants and hopefully new Americans. Pope Benedict XVI has made the plea for them. And Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville is the place where middle Tennessee Catholics can honor the Holy Father's wishes.

Tim Chavez is a former political columnist for The Tennessean in Nashville. His mother, Vita H. Chavez of Oklahoma City, OK, made a $3,000 donation on Saturday to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville.

Tim can be reached at

Photo Copyright 2008 by Susan Adcock. Used with permission.

Cinco de Mayo event roundup

This Tennessean article contains its own roundup of Cinco de Mayo events at Agave Tequila Lounge, Lot 7, Sam's Place Sports Bar and Grill, The French Quarter Cafe, Lime, and Alleycat Lounge.

Then there's these other events:

The Fiesta Belmont on May 3, which the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce* is sponsoring:
FIESTA BELMONT is a one day event that will be held at the campus of Belmont University on Saturday May 3 from 11 AM to 7 PM. This family oriented event will have food stands as well as LIVE MUSIC interpreted by several of our most prominent Hispanic performers including Belmont Salsa All-Stars, San Rafael Band, Ocho Treinta, Carlos Negron & Trabuko as well as our local Mexican Folkloric Dance Group. There will be games for children and most of all a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends and celebrate together our Cinco de Mayo.
There is a Cinco de Mayo Fair running now through Sunday May 4 at the Nashville Fairgrounds.

The Middle TN Hispanic Democrats (MTHD) are hosting a Cinco de Mayo Celebration and Fundraiser ($25 donation appreciated) on May 5 at 5:30pm. Contact for details.

The Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce* sent more details about the French Quarter event listed in the Tennessean article above:
Every year on the fifth of May, party-goers look for the most unique venues to commemorate Mexican heritage and pride with festive music, décor, and drinks. This year, Nashvillians are in for a treat when Cerrito takes the stage at the French Quarter Café at 7:30 PM for his celebratory Spanish-English performance, and they can feel great about supporting the event as all proceeds from tickets will be donated to the "Make A Wish Foundation" in the hopes of fulfilling the dreams of terminally ill children.

"Cinco de Mayo is such a great time of year to show appreciation for Spanish-influenced music, and we are really looking forward to putting on a great show," says Cerrito.

"We are so delighted to celebrate Cinco De Mayo with Cerrito, and help grant a wish in the process.

Events like this are a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and support for wish kids in the 38 counties that we serve," says Michelle Rosen with Make a Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee.Make a Wish will have a child on-site that will personally benefit from the donations and share the story behind their wish.

Cerrito became immersed in the Spanish-English music scene while performing for years with legendary flamenco guitarist Charo. Cerrito then moved on to San Antonio, TX where he headlined his own show at the Arneson River Theatre on the river performing traditional country music (in English and Spanish) in front of ravenous audiences who seemed to want more. Cerrito found his place in the Country Music scene.

Cerrito's interest and success in learning to translate traditional country music to the Spanish language opened doors to a number of opportunities. Renowned Nashville producer Byron Gallimore approached Cerrito with the request to translate Tim McGraw's hit record "Re-fried Dreams," and the Country Music Association, Nashville, solicited him to perform on stage at the first "Fiesta Nashville" show--Fan Fair 2001.

Fans are guaranteed an evening full of entertainment, some culture, as well as some great prizes for their donation at the door!

For more information, please visit

how many Hispanic chambers are there in Nashville?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Juan Pont Lezica is "Face of the Week" in Nolensville

Buenos Aires native is looking for studio space

Juan Pont Lezica was the "Face of the Week" on page 2 of the April 30 Brentwood Journal, which is a print mailer the Tennessean distributes to mailboxes in the Brentwood area.

The feature noted that Lezica was looking at the empty storefronts and vehicle traffic in historic Nolensville, with the possibility of relocating his photography business to the former Gifts by Marishell space. He commented on "the flavor of the countryside and kind of a vintage feel."

Lezica told the Brentwood Journal that he is from Buenos Aires, Argentina and has been in Middle Tennessee for 14 years. Lezica's web site showcases his portfolio and also tells the story of how he met his wife Kimberly in Madrid.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...