Friday, August 29, 2008

Vanderbilt International Lens Film Series brings films from Argentina, Chile, Caribbean, Spain

Vanderbilt University's International Lens film series will begin Sept. 3 at Sarratt Cinema. The series, which is free and open to the public, will screen 27 films from 21 nations from September through December. Each film screening will include an introduction by a Vanderbilt faculty member or program director, who will also lead a post-screening discussion. Most films will be shown in 35 mm prints.

The series includes three contemporary South American films – one from Chile and two from Argentina – and another film from Spain. The Caribbean documentary On The Map will also be shown, with Filmmaker Annalee Davis in attendance.

“We want to help the Nashville film community grow,” said Joel Logiudice, director of the Office of Arts and Creative Engagement. “The International Lens film series is an opportunity for us to bring some of the best in foreign film to Nashville, but films that might not otherwise be shown because of their special topics or niche appeal. We want to complement what’s already happening in Nashville art cinema circles while also engaging the research interests of our faculty and center directors. We feel that access to these films and the chance to discuss the themes and ideas they raise will translate into real benefits for our students and the Nashville community.”

The series is made possible through the sponsorship of the Office of the Dean of Students, the Max Kade Center for European and German Studies, the Vanderbilt departments and centers represented, and through the generous support of Nashville cinephiles Mimi and Scott Manzler and The Tournées Festival of the French American Cultural Exchange. All films will be screened at 7 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema unless otherwise noted. A full schedule is here.

These are the Chile, Argentina, Caribbean, and Spain films:
Oct. 1, Machuca (2004, Chile) directed by Andrés Wood. Presented by Jason Borge, Assistant Professor of Spanish.

Oct. 16, On the Map (2007, Barbados) directed by Annalee Davis. Presented at 7:30 p.m. in Room 235 of The Commons. Presented by Ifeoma Nwankwo, Associate Professor of English.

Oct. 22, Los Muertos (2004, Argentina) directed by Lisandro Alonso. Presented by Jason Borge, Assistant Professor of Spanish.

Oct. 29, Cautiva (2004, Argentina) directed by Gastón Biraben. Presented by Marshall Eakin, Professor of History.

Dec. 3, Bodas de Sangre (1981, Spain) directed by Carlos Saura. Presented by William M. Akers, Senior Lecturer in the Film Studies Program at Vanderbilt.
Parking for International Lens screenings is available free in Zone 2 Lot 2 on West End Avenue. Sarratt Cinema is on the first floor of the Sarratt Student Center at Vanderbilt University.

For more information, call 615-322-6400 or go to

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gabe Garcia: Nashville Star runner-up

Homage to Emilio and Rick Trevino, Freddy Fender and Johnny Rodriguez

Melissa Lawson takes top slot

Gabe Garcia finished as runner-up in this season's Nashville Star, becoming the second Hispanic contestant to do so in the history of the show, after John Arthur Martinez was runner-up in Season 2. Melissa Lawson took the top slot this year, edging out Garcia.

Garcia talked with about what it means for him to be a Hispanic artist in the country music business:
"It's great. It's just an honor to be a representative and be among the few Hispanic artists of the world," Garcia told reporters. "Emilio and Rick Trevino, Freddy Fender and Johnny Rodriguez -- I have some big shoes to fill there with these guys. But it's just great. I'm just here to represent all our country fans, too."

Despite being proud of his roots, Garcia said he doesn't expect to be a crossover artist.

"I don't think I would do a crossover thing but I would definitely throw maybe like a bilingual song in an album or something," he said. "I'm really going to keep it country and as best as possible."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nashville Rotary needs local Spanish-speakers for Argentina exchange program

"To foster a better understanding of each country’s culture and promote friendships between the participants and their hosts"

Call for local businesses with Spanish-speaking management, other volunteers

The Rotary Club of Nashville (District 6760) sent the following announcement to its members calling for participation in two exchange/study projects with Argentina Rotarians:
Group Study Exchange to / from Argentina

Do you speak Spanish or have a household member who does?

Dana McLendon, Board member and International Service Liaison and Tom Turk, GSE Committee Chairperson need your help on two initiatives.

First: Receiving Team from Argentina

From April 16 to May 19, 2009, our Rotary District (6760) and a district in Argentina will exchange Group Study Exchange Teams for almost five weeks. In the last several years, we have exchanged GSE teams with English speaking countries (England and Australia) or regions of other countries where English is widely spoken as a second language (France).

We understand that English is not widely spoken in the northern provinces of Argentina where our Rotarian visitors live. For that reason, we want to put together a Spanish-language resource list. Specifically:

1. Do you or a member of your household speak Spanish?
2. Do you have a close friend, neighbor, or relative (not in your household) who speaks Spanish?
3. Do you know of sizeable Middle Tennessee businesses where there are Spanish speaking members of management (possible tour sites for the in-bound GSE team visitors)?

If your answer to any of these (or similar) questions is “yes,” please email Suzanne at: with a copy to GSE Committee Chairperson Tom Turk at:

Second: Outbound Trip to Argentina

We need to identify and encourage young professionals (age 25-39) who speak Spanish to apply to be outbound team members, plus Spanish-speaking Rotarians desiring to apply to be the team leader of the outbound District 6760 Tennessee team. Preference will be given to conversational and fluent Spanish speakers.

The interviews/ selection for team members and the team leader will be held Saturday, October 18 at the Renaissance Center in Dickson.

Interested persons can find the application form for Group Study Exchange at Completed applications are submitted through any District 6760 Rotary Club.

Thank you.

Rotary GSE Trip to Argentina

The purpose of the trip will be to foster a better understanding of each country’s culture and promote friendships between the participants and their hosts. While in Argentina the group will stay in the homes of Rotarians, see spectacular sites and scenery, and meet the fascinating people of this country.

NON-ROTARIAN Team Members: Individuals who apply for the Group Study Exchange Team must be twenty-five through thirty-nine years of age and employed full time in the area. They must also be able to leave their employment for the period of the exchange or approximately a month. Rotarians and their families are not eligible to be team members.

ROTARIAN Team Leader: The team leader acts as advocate, confidant, mediator, organizer, intermediary, consultant, colleague, friends, motivator, arbitrator, and protector of team members. As the only Rotarian on the team, the team leader is expected to assume complete control of the team and put its interests first.

Criteria for Team Leader:

---Be an experienced Rotarian;

---Not be the current district governor, immediately past district governor, or district governor-elect;

---Remain with the team for the duration of the exchange;

---Be willing and able, physically and mentally, to keep pace the GSE;

---Not be accompanied by a spouse, companion, or other relatives or dependents.

Applications for both a team leader and team members are available through the Rotary Club of Nashville; PO Box 110102; Nashville, TN 37222-0102. Applicants can also call 615-781-2700, fax 615-781-2775 or e-mail

Deadline to file applications is: September 30, 2008.

Group Study Exchange Application forms (both team member and team leader) can be downloaded from the Rotary International website


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gregg Ramos: Live United

"We're all in this together"

Nashville attorney and advocate A. Gregory ("Gregg") Ramos is featured prominently in a brochure for the Nashville United Way's fundraising campaign entitled "Live United." Ramos' quote for the piece:
"Living united means raising awareness - and raising your voice - about our community's needs. I consider myself an advocate for United Way, not only by contributing personally to the campaign, but also by sharing the message of its mission. We're all in this together."
Ramos has lived out this message and mission most prominently in his efforts to steer Nashville away from foreign language-stifling rules (proposed both this year and last in different forms) and to find civil solutions for ordinary visaless immigrants instead of the one-size-fits-all 287(g) process currently in place, including for pregnant women such as Juana Villegas.

Ramos' causes are finding sympathetic ears, in that Nashvillians are increasingly recognizing the sinister side of the current incarnation of English Only, which looks like a foreign language blackout. Ramos also reports that Sheriff Daron Hall has recently indicated a willingness to ramp down the severity of its department's treatment of pregnant women in custody, which is a step forward in the context of the Villegas case.

Ramos often tells how he is inspired by his parents, who came to Arizona from Mexico, and by his father, who did not learn English until he served in World War II.

Ramos was recently named to the 33rd class of Leadership Nashville. His further accomplishments are summarized in his bio:
Ramos was President of the Nashville Bar Association in 2004. He is a member of North, Pursell, Ramos & Jameson PLC in Nashville, TN, where he maintains a general civil litigation practice with an emphasis in the areas of workers' compensation and employment law as well as personal injury. He received his J.D. degree from Arizona State University in 1980 and his B.A. degree, magna cum laude, from the same university in 1977.

After practicing law in Arizona for four years as an Assistant Prosecutor for the City of Phoenix, Ramos moved to Tennessee in 1984 so his wife Sandy could pursue a songwriting career in Country Music. (Sandy’s songs have been recorded by the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, Lee Greenwood, Barbara Mandrell and a host of others). Sandy and Gregg have two children, Melody, age 25, and David, age 20. Mr. Ramos is a member of the Nashville, Tennessee, and American Bar Associations as well as the State Bar of Arizona.

Ramos is the immediate past president of Catholic Charities of Tennessee. In addition, he currently serves on the Board of Directors of the following organizations: United Way of Metropolitan Nashville (Chair of the HR Committee), Board President of Conexion Americas (a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Hispanic families realize their aspirations for social and economic advancement by promoting their integration into the Middle Tennessee community), and the Tennessee Justice Center, whose mission is to advocate on behalf of poor Tennesseans. Ramos serves as well as a member of the Advisory Board of the American Constitution Society, an organization dedicated to ensuring that our country’s founding values of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality and access to justice enjoy their rightful, central place in American law.

Governor Bredesen appointed Ramos in 2006 to serve on the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council. He also is a past member of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Committee on Public Trust and Confidence in the Courts. Finally, Ramos serves on the Tennessee Education Lottery’s Advisory Council on Minority Business Participation and is an Executive Committee member of the Metro Bar Caucus, an affiliate organization of the American Bar Association.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Evangelicals need to get it right on Hispanics, immigrants

Update August 26, 2008: Saritha Prabhu asks, "One can't ignore the irony here: a city frequently termed the buckle of the Bible Belt that is now insisting on an exclusionary law that would adopt a rigid, uncompassionate, almost un-Christ-like position with, underline here — no exceptions for health and safety. Do we want to be that city?"

On Friday, Mack of Coyote Chronicles caught Rob Huddleston making this unsourced comment about the tragic shooting at Knoxville's Central High:
The shooter was Hispanic and apparently acted like some sort of gangster after pulling the trigger, walking calmly out of the school.
Huddleston is Treasurer of the Knox County Young Republicans, but more to the point of this post, he is also a Deacon of Immanuel Baptist Church.

Update August 26, 2008: Aunt B. gets close to what troubles me about Huddleston's comment here. It's also that he was careless (or worse, intentional) about using the word "Hispanic" in a negative context.

And then on Sunday, we hear this quote from Gary Ashley, a self-proclaimed Shelbyville liberal Protestant (maybe not an evangelical), on the Somalian immigrant population that has been drawn to his city:
The Somolians don't use toilet paper… They use their hand and then wash it without soap...
I have written multiple articles on the intersection of faith and Hispanic Nashville, and it is an issue with which I wrestle constantly. Questions I ask myself include, what is the role for God's evangelical church in the U.S., of which I am a part - are we called to speak out for others who are under attack - are we called to have a role in political decisions that treat the "least of these" with disproportionate injustice?

Rob Huddleston, the Baptist Deacon mentioned above, said in this post on his site that he wants to be inspired. Well, that's the aim of my site - to inspire - so I submit to him these voices who have inspired me:(Of course this list leaves out many local Nashville heroes whose voices have been critical on this issue - to name just one, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.)

In an environment in which Hispanics and/or immigrants are the subject of politically generated suspicion and scorn, it certainly isn't right for Southern Baptists and other evangelicals to gin up more suspicion and scorn.

Silence feels just as wrong.

See also Liberty Together, which tracks pro-immigrant opinion, and this promo for

Photo by Ann Althouse. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

NashvOLD could learn from ChattaNEWga

Commentary by Cesar A. Muedas
Chattanooga is 55 years younger than Nashville (yes, I did the fact-checking) but maybe ahead of our Nashvilleans times at least with regard to two unique attractions:
(1) The Tennessee Aquarium
Indeed a gem that every family should visit. The real deal; and worth every penny of the admission fee.
Back in Nashville, and for the record, I like Opry Mills and do not have anything against the Rainforest Café – our family had dinner there only 8 days go – and nothing either against the Aquarium Restaurant - I chaperoned my daughter’s brownie troop’s visit there last year. But comparing either to the Chattanooga experience is like comparing a seahorse to a Tennessee walking horse (and, by the way, you still have until August 30 to see several of the latter at the Shelbyville National Celebration).
(2) The Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported two days ago that …

The first public charter school in Hamilton County will serve girls only.
After school administrators praised the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy’s application at Tuesday’s work session, the board on Thursday voted to approve the school’s opening in July 2009.
Hamilton County has received several charter school applications since the state began allowing them in 2002, but all of them either have been denied or have withdrawn their applications after approval.
“I think they made one mistake in their application,” joked Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman of the newly approved school. “They said they planned to advertise (to get students to come) — I don’t believe you’re going to have to advertise.”
Seven of the eight board members voted for approval, while the eighth member, Joe Conner, abstained from voting because he was absent during Tuesday’s work session discussing the school.
Within the next 30 days, members of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy Foundation, the school’s sponsoring organization, will begin negotiating with school system officials to draft a contract […]
The academy, which will operate on a year-round schedule similar to Hardy Elementary, will serve girls in schools failing to make adequate yearly progress — currently Howard School of Academics and Technology, Lookout Valley Middle-High, Ooltewah High, Soddy-Daisy High and East Side Elementary — or students who themselves have failed to score proficient on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests […] — the academy will begin in 2009 only with grades six and nine and will continue to grow one grade per year.
I am already a fan of the future Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy! Thanks to the Hamilton County Board of Education for showing us what progress can look like.
And finally, I could not escape a final insinuation that came to mind as I was typing this Chattanooga/Nashville piece:
Mayor Corker → Senator Corker ……….Mayor Dean → ?? Mmmm…
Cesar Muedas loves Nashville and is the proud parent of a third-grader (daughter) and first-grader (son) attending public school in MNPS.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Delta to fly nonstop from Nashville to Cancun

"Part of Delta's ongoing international expansion, of which Latin America is a key component"

Delta issued this press release announcing nonstop service from Nashville to Cancun:
Delta Air Lines plans to offer a nonstop flight between Nashville and Cancun beginning December 20.

According to a news release from the company, as an introductory offer the Saturday flights will cost $159 one-way.

Pam Elledge, senior vice president-Global Sales and Distribution, said Cancun is a favorite destination for U.S. travelers.

The new flight between Nashville and Cancun is part of Delta's ongoing international expansion, of which Latin America is a key component.

Delta currently serves Cancun from Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Salt Lake City, and Washington, D.C.

Fabian Bedne confirmed as Obama Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention

Fabian Bedne has been confirmed as an Obama Alternate Delegate for TN to the Democratic National Convention, the Hispanic Nashville Notebook has learned.

"I look forward to meeting with other Latino Democrats from around the Country and learn from them," said Bedne.

Bedne's civic and political involvement was summarized in a recent Hispanic Nashville Notebook story here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fernando Beltran Jr. enters Sommet Center ring for ESPN2's Friday Night Fights

Beltran is two-time world title challenger

Promoter: "I believe there is a good market here, especially with a large Hispanic population"

The Tennessean reports here that Fernando Beltran Jr. of Mexico will be climbing into the boxing ring for the Sommet Center's first such event in 11 years. The August 22 event will be broadcast on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.

From the Tennessean:
Two major titles will be up for grabs Friday at the Sommet Center as part of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.

The International Boxing Organization’s Featherweight World title and the International Boxing Federation’s North American Junior Middleweight championship will co-headline the first boxing event at the Sommet Center since January 1997.
“I believe there is a good market here, especially with a large Hispanic population and it’s going to take time to develop, but you have to do it right,” [Arthur] Pellullo [of Banner Promotions] said. “
That international audience will be particularly interested in the 12-round main event between Mexican southpaw Fernando Beltran Jr. and South Africa’s former IBO Featherweight champion Takalani Ndlovu.
Beltran Jr., who is 30-3-1 with 18 knockouts, didn’t seem shaken by the standard boxing press conference hype.
From the press release:





Promoter Art Pelullo/Banner Promotions and Rodney Berman/Golden Gloves will present a sensational world championship fight card on Friday, August 22, 2008, at the Sommet Center, located at 501 Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee. The main event and co-featured bout will be televised live on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights.”

In the 12 round main event for the vacant IBO featherweight world title, Fernando Beltran Jr., 30-3-1 with 18 knockouts, of Culiacan, Mexico, will fight Takalani Ndlovu, 28-4 with 18 knockouts, of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The extremely popular Beltran, now 26 years old, is a veteran contender and two-time world title challenger. In April, 2005, he challenged WBO jr. featherweight world champion Joan Guzman. Fernando finished the fight very strongly – he won the eighth and ninth rounds on two judges’ scorecards then swept the eleventh and twelfth on all three, but lost a competitive 12 round decision. He challenged IBF jr. featherweight world champion Steve Molitor in his last fight in April, 2008, and gave another strong effort, but lost by decision in that fight, as well. Fernando also has a win to his credit against former WBC bantamweight world champion Victor Rabanales in a nontitle fight.

30 year-old Ndlovu is a former IBO super bantamweight world champion with three successful title defenses, as well as a former South African featherweight champion. He is 7-1 in his last eight fights, with five wins by knockout. The only loss in that streak was by decision in an IBF featherweight world title challenge against Steve Molitor.

In the co-featured bout featuring two super undefeated prospects, Harry Joe Yorgey, 20-0-1 with 9 knockouts, of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, will face Jason LeHoullier, 21-0-1 with 8 knockouts, of Portland, Maine. The fight is scheduled for 12 rounds for the vacant IBF North American Junior Middleweight title.

More exciting bouts featuring the best in local boxing talent will complete the card. All bouts subject to change without notice.

Doors open at: 6:00 P.M. (All times Central time)

First bout: 7:00 P.M.

Tickets prices: starting at $27.50

Tickets available at Sommet Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, charge by phone at 615-255-9600, and online at

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hispanic Heritage Month gets early kickoff from Conexion, Nissan

Conexion Americas' Nissan-sponsored Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations kick off this Saturday, according to the group's Events page:
Presented by

During Hispanic Heritage Month, observed nation-wide from September 15 through October 15, Conexión Américas and our sponsors celebrate the presence, contributions and rich cultural heritage of Latinos in the United States and in Middle Tennessee. Join us for this year's events:

SABOR! Fundraising Event
Patrons Party, Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration 2008
$125 per person

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, 10 am

Cheekwood Museum and Botanical Garden, 6 pm
$35 per person

Nashville Zoo, 9 am - 6 pm
Regular price of admission/Precio de admisión regular

'Ogullo Hispano' Award/Premio 'Orgullo Hispano'
Chidren's Essay Contest/Concurso de Ensayo
Martha's Restaurant at Belle Meade Plantation, 6 pm
By invitation only.

Del Castillo at Mercy Lounge August 27

Del Castillo is coming to Mercy Lounge August 27, according to this press release:

WHAT: An Evening with DEL CASTILLO, with special guests, Mona
WHEN: Wednesday, August 27 – 8 p.m.
WHERE: Mercy Lounge, One Cannery Row, Nashville
INFORMATION: 615-251-3020 or visit


Austin-based DEL CASTILLO—brothers Rick and Mark del Castillo on dual lead classical guitars, Alex Ruiz on lead vocals, Albert Besteiro on bass, Mike Zeoli on drums, and Carmelo Torres on percussion— has become a symbol of the cross-cultural power of music with their eclectic blend of Flamenco, Rock, Latin, Blues, and World music.

It all began in late 2000 when Rick and Mark del Castillo decided to put together an album of Latin/Flamenco-style songs for their parents and friends in their hometown of Brownsville, Texas. The brothers, who had always played electric guitar in separate rock bands, had never played together and for the first time ever they began collaborating on songs on acoustic guitars.

Their good friend, vocalist/guitarist Alex Ruiz, began adding lyrics to the brothers' instrumentals, and soon after, the other band members joined them. After receiving positive and encouraging responses from everyone who heard the songs they created together, the project began to evolve into a real band. Del Castillo was born!

The band has won 13 Austin Music Awards, including Best Latin Traditional Band and Album of their Year for Brotherhood, their third album, released in 2006. Their first CD to include an all-English song and several bilingual tracks, Brotherhood also boasts a duet with legendary admirer Willie Nelson on "I Never Cared For You."

Thanks to their close working relationship with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, Del Castillo's music has been heard in such feature films as Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. They've performed everywhere from the clubs of Austin, to the Kennedy Center, to a private Cartier event in Switzerland and Willie Nelson's 4th of July picnic. They have shared the stage with the likes of Styx, Don Henley, Los Lonely Boys, the Neville Brothers and Buddy Guy.

"Brilliance on nylon-string classical guitars." – Rolling Stone

"They pull together Latin music's romance and rock's grit." – Billboard

"An intoxicatingly rhythmic combination of flamenco, Latin rock, blues and some R&B." - Dallas Morning News

Monday, August 18, 2008

Corrections Corporation PR project defends immigrant detention

Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America has launched The CCA 360, a PR site dedicated to various explanations about company-related issues that have attracted national attention and criticism:
Unlike many blogs, "so-called" informational Web sites or news outlets that purport to cover or report objectively on the private prison industry and Corrections Corporation of America, the content here does not reflect a narrow agenda or view point. Instead, offers a more complete 360-degree perspective, citing official government records, official documents and respected experts and sources on issues and happenings that impact the company and its industry.
Immigrant detention is the primary focus of the site's Resources page. Elsewhere on the site, the company's spokesperson and company executives defend the company on other issues.

Previous CCA-related stories on can be found here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New teachers for MNPS: Priceless

Commentary by Cesar A. Muedas
Two days ago, the Nashville City Paper reported that Mayor Dean plans to raise one million dollars from private sources to pay for an organization that recruits teachers from professional backgrounds to Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). This is a strong show of leadership that we should all support, monitor meticulously and hold accountable to very high expectations. No doubt the money donors will encourage expediency and effectiveness. We will also have a School Board with a new composition observing, commenting and – God willing – not obstructing a partnership that will challenge traditional ways of selecting new educators. The roles and positions of the central MNPS administration, the local teachers' union (MNEA) and of the TN Department of Education overseers has yet to be explicitly described for this new initiative.
The vision is clear and commendable: to select highly qualified individuals to pursue alternative certification paths and to give top priority to the areas of math, science and special education. Is a formal certification just one of many requisites to be a successful teacher? Probably so, and your perspective on what makes an excellent teacher may steer your own sentiments from an extreme of skepticism and sarcasm (“those who can, do; those who can't, teach”) to heights of hope and idealism (“those who can, do; those who care, teach”). Aside from perception and subjectivity, have you hugged an MNPS teacher lately? Did you talk to your child's new teacher last Monday? Are you going to attend
your school's first PTO/PTA/PTSO meeting next week? When was the last time that you walked down the hallway of your child's school and run into a smiling and friendly board school member or Director of Schools?
[I cannot help myself answer personally to the last question because it happened to me last Monday. I shook hands with Mr. Henson after walking my children to their new classrooms at Glendale Elementary.]

Effective public education demands an ongoing social contract that is examined, enforced and executed by every single stakeholder in society. In our country today, public education is the last experiment not of social engineering but of social architecture. Obviously not everyone is an architect, but each of us must have a building role in the education enterprise. Yes, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem; it is that simple. Sharp critics reiterate their disgust for failures of the past, incompetences of the present and lack of compass for the future. I prefer – and strongly encourage you – to resort to blunt individualism and deeply-rooted resilience: (1) Neither I nor my school-age children were involved in past failures of public schools, (2) I strive to be a competent parent, raising children to become competent adults in the profession of their choosing, and (3) there is an individual moral compass in the vast majority of Americans that inspired the creation of our country and that will continue setting the common North for future generations.
Caminante, son tus huellas el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino sino estelas en la mar...

Antonio Machado y Ruiz, in "Cantares"
b. Jul.26, 1875, Sevilla, Spain
d. Feb.22, 1939, Collioure, France

Friday, August 15, 2008

Humberto: a Hispanic Nashville portrait

In anticipation of Hispanic Heritage Month, which will run from September 15 to October 15, I have invited area photographers to take portraits of Hispanic Nashvillians for publication here on

This first photo is of Humberto, a conga player from Cuba. Hear Humberto play his instrument and tell some of his story here.

Photo by Susan Adcock for the Hispanic Nashville Notebook. Copyright 2008

La Hacienda joins landmark local eateries at airport

Putting the "buena" in BNA

When the Nashville airport invited legendary local eateries like Noshville, Tootsies and Whitt's to open up shop in the city's major transportation hub, they included La Hacienda as one of the great Nashville gastronomical landmarks. See the Nashville Business Journal story here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

English Only: a foreign language ban?

Putting aside for a moment the various other reasons that English Only has been publicly opposed by one crucial question is, does the proposal itself amount to a foreign language ban? In other words, could Metro still choose to communicate in other languages when federal or state law does not require?

Metro Nashville government has multilingual communication strategies in a variety of areas, including the following, and it is important to know to what extent, if any, communications related to these topics are in jeopardy:
  • legal rights
  • a child's first day of school
  • domestic violence
  • recycling
  • rape victim resources
  • financial counseling
  • Homework Hotline
  • recidivism-reducing DUI education
  • pet ownership tips
  • access to health care, and
  • tornado siren instructions
The English Only proposal's sponsor says they're safe. In today's Nashville City Paper (here), the Councilman who is pushing English Only (and calling it English First) is saying that city agencies will still be able to choose to communicate in other languages, even if federal or state law doesn't require them to:
The second-term Councilman also said he’s frustrated with the misconception that the proposed charter amendment would forbid Metro from offering services in other languages.

“Clearly there’s a difference between somebody having a right and the city choosing to provide it if they want to help.”
The text of the proposed city charter amendment (akin to a federal constitutional amendment, but only for Nashville) is what the city would have to abide by if it passes. The answer to the language ban question, therefore, has to be found in the amendment itself, here:
English is the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Official actions (those which bind or commit the government) shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be published only in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards, and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law.
I'd be interested to hear how readers interpret the language above. Can Metro still communicate in foreign languages by choice if we insert this clause into our city's legal DNA?

Photo by Tim O'Brien. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In playful ads, conductor Giancarlo Guerrero takes symphony passion to La Hacienda, Tootsies, historic Franklin and Bicentennial Mall

"One of the biggest goals of this orchestra is to open it to everybody"

La Hacienda ad: "Gracias, Maestro"

Nicaragua-born and Costa Rica-raised Giancarlo Guerrero, the new director of the Nashville Symphony, is the star of a popular series of playful ads that take the Maestro beyond the typical symphony surroundings and into Middle Tennessee landmarks like La Hacienda, Tootsies, historic downtown Franklin, and the Bicentennial Mall.

The Tennessean reported here on the ads and quoted Guerrero as saying, "One of the biggest goals of this orchestra is to open it to everybody." Single-concert ticket sales are up 50% over last year, according to figures published in the Tennessean.

The ads have been placed on YouTube and elsewhere and are featured below. In the ad filmed at La Hacienda, both a restaurant customer and Guerrero speak a little Spanish.

Los Pollitos Dicen debuts new Spanish clothing line for children

"We are proud of our language and culture and revel in celebrating it with little kids all over the country"

Nashville-based baby clothier Los Pollitos Dicen announced its new Spanish-language line in this press release:
Los Pollitos Dicen, the premier line of children's Spanish tee shirts, debuts new gift items: bilingual baby hats, bibs and tank tops.

The company also introduces its first embroidered design, a cheerful "Los Pollitos Dicen Pio Pio Pio'' on vibrantly colored red and yellow infant onesies.

The new items in the apparel company's offerings are, like the rest of the line, boutique quality and 100% cotton, made in the U.S.A. The items join a selection of bright and festive onesies and tees screen-printed with funny and popular Latino colloquialisms like Gordito, Pachanga and Candela (Chubalicious, Par-TAY! and Spitfire.)

Los Pollitos Dicen (The Little Chicks Say) sells many of its t-shirts and onesies packaged in a wooden, egg-shaped gift box with a beautiful illustration and story in English. The box can be decorated and cherished as a keepsake or fun box for toddler treasures.

All the t-shirts and onesies, like the company's tag line, are "Vibrant Threads for Colorful Babes.'' Prices range from $6 to $24. All items are available on-line and at select boutiques across the country.

Los Pollitos Dicen launched in 2005 and has been featured in national newspapers and magazines such as Working Mother, The Miami Herald and the Dallas Morning News. Los Pollitos Dicen also was a Hispanic Heritage Month Red Hot Shop vendor in 2007.

The founders, Carrie Ferguson Weir and Oscar Alonso, are South Florida-born Cuban-Americans who created the line to celebrate and promote la cultura to all -- regardless of Mother Tongue. Weir is a former newspaper reporter who blogs about "life on the hyphen'' at Bilingual in the Boonies. She also writes for the popular site, Alonso is a Philadelphia-based artist and graphic designer.

"We are proud of our language and culture and revel in celebrating it with little kids all over the country,'' Weir said. "Our loyal customers appreciate our originality and our quality, so we always are working to expand our line. We know the new offerings will be a hit.''

For more information visit Los Pollitos Dicen at
Use the code PACHANGA to receive 20% off your next purchase.

# # #

Los Pollitos Dicen, the premier line of Spanish baby gift t-shirts and onesies, has been making familias happy since 2005. Our designs are bold in color and rich in Latino heritage.
Image source: Los Pollitos Dicen

Leticia Mason, Natalia Pelaz, and Paulo Boero to speak at Charlemos Spanish

Charlemos Spanish, one of Nashville's Spanish chat groups, sent out this press release announcing its upcoming speakers:
Sister Cities of Nashville’s Spanish social conversation group, Charlemos Spanish, announces its speakers for the beginning of the 2008-2009 season. Each meeting begins with a presentation, in Spanish, followed by small group conversation, in Spanish.

Charlemos Spanish meets the second and fourth Thursday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Palette Gallery and Cafe at 2119 Belcourt Avenue in Hillsboro Village. All levels of Spanish-speakers, from beginner to native, are invited. The event is free and open to the public.

The speakers are:

* Leticia Mason--originally from Guadalajara, México; a lawyer and certified Spanish court interpreter in the state of Tennessee; “Spanish court interpreters in Tennessee and main differences between the American justice system and the Mexican justice system”; 11 September
* Natalia Pelaz--Spanish professor at Belmont University; originally from Spain; “Until soccer united us--How the European Cup created a sense of Spanish unity”, 25 September
* Paulo Boero--Spanish professor at Belmont University; originally from Argentina; moved to Nashville at the age of twelve; will speak about Argentine film, 9 October

Charlemos Spanish was created in December 2006 by the Spanish Committee of Sister Cities of Nashville, a nonprofit organization, founded in 1990, dedicated to the promotion of global understanding through educational, professional and cultural exchanges.

Sister Cities of Nashville has one Spanish-speaking sister city--Mendoza in the wine country of Argentina. Nashville has developed a successful high school student exchange with Mendoza. Sister Cities is currently exploring a relationship with Chihuahua, Mexico. A formal International Friendship City relationship with El Port de la Selva, Catalonia, Spain is pending.

Mayor Karl Dean is the Honorary Chair for Sister Cities of Nashville.

Charlemos Spanish is for persons who wish to:

* Speak Spanish on a regular basis
* Make bilingual friends
* Learn more about Hispanic culture.

The founder and president of Charlemos Spanish is Elizabeth Worrell Braswell. Ms. Braswell is an online Spanish instructor for Austin Peay State University and a board member of Sister Cities of Nashville.

For directions and more information on the gallery go to:


Elizabeth Worrell Braswell

Monica Mackie
Photo by Dragunsk Usf. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Corrections Corporation tightly intertwined with ICE, says new President Damon Hininger

Immigration bureaucracy is "one of the more consistent customers"

Facility in Georgia is "all-ICE"

National press picks up problems

In an interview with the Tennessean here, Damon Hininger, newly appointed President and COO of Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, identifies the immigration bureaucracy as one of the company's bedrock businesses and points to greater integration with the federal enforcement arm.

So far this year, problems with CCA's performance in the area of immigration have been brought to life with vivid stories in the New Yorker ("The Lost Children"), the front page of the New York Times ("Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody"), and a cover story in the Nashville Scene ("Locked and Loaded").

From Hininger's interview in the Tennessean:
On the federal side, our main customers are the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We have a new (federal) contract out in Las Vegas, and we are getting ready to start construction of a 1,072-bed facility there — the Nevada Southern Detention Center.

If you look at the last eight years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has probably been one of the more consistent customers we've had. They have two potential procurements for another 4,000 beds that we think they'll take some type of action on next year. It would be beds for criminal aliens — non-U.S. citizens, low security.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, our very first contract with them goes back to our company's founding in 1983. We continue to work with them and in pretty creative ways. Our facility down in Lumpkin, Georgia, in Stewart County has turned into an all-ICE facility.

It has courtrooms for immigration judges and other space for about 60 federal caseworkers who work on deportation issues. We put services on site so there's no transport required to a federal courthouse or to a federal immigration office in Atlanta. Everybody is under one roof and detainees can go through the system very quickly.

ICE is challenged on bed space all over the country, but that picture improves if you have detainees going through the system in 30 days, let's say, instead of on average 60 days.
Photo: Corrections Corporation of America

Monday, August 11, 2008

One-day-old Hispanic girl found hidden among Nashville bushes

WSMV and the Tennessean reported (here and here) on the discovery Friday of a one-day-old infant girl hidden among some bushes on McDonald drive in Nashville, which is a street that runs just north of Briley Parkway, near Murfreesboro Road.

According to WSMV, "Tennessee has what's called a 'safe haven' law, meaning a person can legally leave an infant less than 72 hours old at a hospital, police station or fire house with no questions asked."

The police say the child is Hispanic, according to the WSMV report.

Illustration of Pharoah's daughter* by Bethanne Andersen.

*This is off-topic, but at a time when many are caught in the crossfire of what is often a confused and unnecessarily negative policy debate about personal responsibility vis-a-vis immigration law, I find it both instructive and exhortative that Moses' mother violated national law by hiding him instead of killing him, as did Pharoah's daughter by saving him. Considering that the law had come from her own father, Pharoah's daughter betrayed more than just her country - she betrayed her family. As a result, according to the Jewish tradition I learned about here, Pharoah's daughter was renamed "daughter of God."

In the words of Patricia K. Tull, A. B. Rhodes Professor of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (audio and PDF here):
She is not in a position to change her father's laws or heart. But she listens to the baby's cries and follows her own law, her own heart. Lacking the power to change governmental policies, the Pharaoh's daughter nevertheless overturns a society gone terribly awry.

Metro's multilingual Homework Hotline resumes today

The Tennessean reports here that the multilingual Homework Hotline will resume today. The service, which received 32,407 total calls in 2007-2008, is available not only in English but also in Kurdish, Somalian, Arabic, and Spanish.

The service is a partnership between Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and corporate leaders including Dell, Bridgestone/Firestone, AT&T, NewsChannel 5, Sonic, and Tri-Star Health System.

Free tickets to Tuesday night screening of American Teen

The Hispanic Nashville Notebook has free tickets to Tuesday night's screening of American Teen. Send an e-mail to the Editor to request a ticket good for 2 people. Availability is first come first serve.

Maria Elena Salinas cites Villegas case in national column

Nashville's increasingly famous visaless pregnancy is illustration of why immigrants might self-deport

"Maybe some will – those tired of being hunted like animals or treated like an assassin, as Villegas was"

Maria Elena Salinas, a nationally syndicated columnist and a co-anchor of the most watched Spanish-language news program in the U.S., refers in her most recent national column to the Nashville story of Juana Villegas to illustrate the point that treatment of ordinary visaless immigrants in the U.S. is getting so bad that they might in fact voluntarily self-deport.

What has been described as the New York Times as the Misery Strategy and by as bear trap bureacracy is described by Salinas as
being hunted like animals or treated like an assassin, as Villegas was.
Salinas' column is here. More on Villegas, and the national scrutiny that Nashville is under as a result of how she was treated over the July 4 weekend, is here.

Photo: Some information courtesy of Wikipedia

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Happy New Year!

Commentary by Cesar A. Muedas
Happy New School Year, that is. Our children in the MNPS system go back to school tomorrow. Best wishes to all of them!
As adults, we tend to speak about change and improvement in our schools in terms that are reasoned, informed and no less impassioned. We may analyze, criticize or simply vent opinions and perceptions of a system that can and should be made better. We may be partial in our judgments – and deservedly so – or may show low tolerance towards flaws and deficiencies in service (Education) and service providers (Educators and Administrators). We fund our schools through our property taxes and want to see that investment pay a sensible and lasting return. To varying degrees, we may recall distinct details of our school days and quickly, too, we give way to comparing such time of simplicity with the stressful and demanding reality of being a grown-up and behaving as such in the Nashville of 2008.
As they start a new academic year tomorrow, our children will be going to school to live change, to discover reason, to absorb information, to cultivate a passion for learning; all that change with the hope (everyone's hope - certainly) that another year of education will translate into improvement in each of their lives. Hope alone, however, will have the shelf life of a milk carton if not connected to the fulfillment of duties and responsibilities by every stakeholder.
Before labeling the personality type, the behavioral tendencies, or the learning style of any children, let's start by asking ourselves: what is my role in public education? - and – what am I consistently and effectively going to do to assist my school? Defining any role may be quite straightforward, we all know about job descriptions and performance evaluations in the “grown-up world”. I challenge you, though, to be equally explicit about identifying which school is YOUR SCHOOL, and why, and how you will maximize your involvement in it. No excuses, please. Unrestricted civic involvement is indispensable to improve our schools. Time, talent or treasure; pick anyone (or combination of more than one) of those and step up to the plate. There are more than 72,000 good reasons why we must act decisively and urgently. At very different times (indeed, in very different times) in the past each of us was one of those 72,000 children; of course of different races, income levels, nationalities and creeds, and living or surviving our own challenges. But today, each and all of us can clearly do something substantial that our children cannot: At every level, every day, we make decisions that change the present and future of Nashville, and we make them using resources and abiding to laws to which only adults have access and commitment. No excuses, please. The passing of time is irreversible and so are the consequences of failing to educate all of our children.
If not us, who?; if not now, when?... And, again, Happy New Year!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tonight: Nashville Metros v. Monarcas of Morelia

The Tennessean reports here that the Nashville Metros soccer team will host the Monarcas of Morelia, Mexico tonight at Ezell Park Stadium:
The Metros will play their third international match of the season Saturday night at Ezell Park Stadium, taking on Monarcas of Morelia...

The Metros-Mexican matches this season have come about in large part because of Martin Sanchez, who joined the team’s ownership group a couple of months ago. A businessman formerly based in Birmingham, Ala., Sanchez has many ties to Mexico and has been able to arrange the contests.

The Metros have long sought to make inroads in the area’s Hispanic community and believe games like this serve as significant steps in that direction.

“International matches tend to give people a little taste of home — they get people excited," [Metros Coach Rico] Laise said. “I think a large contingency of the Mexican population here is from the state (Michoacan) where Morelia is, so hopefully they’ll come out and take a look."
Photo by Julio Marquez. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Friday, August 8, 2008

RESOLUTION PASSES BY 3-1 MARGIN: Council, Mayor ask Nashville to say "no" to foreign language ban

Mayor Dean: "We have too much potential to allow such an unnecessary change in our law to hurt us in so many ways"

The Tennessean and the City Paper report (here and here) on the Metro Council's passage last night of a resolution asking Davidson County not to sign an "English Only" charter amendment petition to ban foreign languages in Metro communications - and if it were to get on the November ballot, to vote against it. The resolution, introduced by Metro Councilman Ronnie Steine, passed 25 (aye) to 8 (no) to 2 (abstain). A copy of the resolution appears below.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean addressed the Council before the vote, and the text of his comments also appear below.

Nashville has had role in national pullback

In the last year or so, the country has started to pull back from out-of-control immigrant politics.

Nashville was part of that movement last year, when former Mayor Purcell vetoed the Metro Council's English ordinance, which unlike this year's petition, contained exceptions for health, safety, and welfare* (story here); and just a few months after that at LP Field, former Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback apologized to a Christian audience for the backlash against Hispanics that was sparked by the federal immigration debate (story here).

With last night's resolution, Nashville's city officials have taken a leadership position to keep our city moving in the same direction as last year. Whether Nashville finishes 2008 claiming a leadership position in this practical and moral awakening could depend on whether we put on the ballot and pass a city charter amendment to ban foreign languages in government communications, as the current petition proposes*.

Council resolution had been ruled out by language ban opponents

Interestingly, some opponents of the English Only petition had determined just a few weeks ago that asking the Council for a resolution of this nature would be a practical impossibility, and it was not pursued. Fortunately, despite the miscalculation of ordinary citizens, Councilman Ronnie Steine eventually drafted and championed the successful resolution. He told the Tennessean here that "It's important that the public understand that while one council member is supportive, not all of us are."

Address of Mayor Karl Dean to Metro Council

Thank you and good evening. Vice Mayor Neighbors, members of the Council, Madam Clerk, ladies and gentlemen. This is the third time during my nearly 11 months in office that I have come to the Council Chambers at the start of your meeting and I appreciate the opportunity to do so again tonight.

This evening I am here to speak on the proposed charter amendment to make English the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and prohibit any kind of government service from being offered in languages other than English. While I do not question the intentions of the organizers of this initiative, I feel a responsibility as mayor to explain the implications such a radical change in our law could have for our city.

First, let’s talk about what this referendum is not. It is not a vote on immigration reform and it is not a harmless message to office holders. The proposed charter amendment will have absolutely no effect upon efforts to curtail illegal immigration or to reform current national policy. Rather than permitting voters to send a message to the government, the referendum alters our charter in a manner that will create legal, political, social and even moral consequences for years to come.

While the initiative is called English First, to be clear, the language of the amendment is so broad that it would restrict all government communications to English only, and I don’t believe the extent of the impact such a law would have has been fully considered.

Nashville is a growing and vibrant city, and as we have grown in recent years, so too has our reach to the international community. One example of this is the CMA Music Festival, visited by more than 200,000 people this summer. Contributing to the record attendance was a 30 percent increase in international visitors over last year. We had people from Germany, and France – from all over the world here in Nashville for a week in June to listen to the world’s best country music.

This year our library for the first time held an International Puppet Festival with puppet troupes from as far away as China. Attendance at the two-day festival well exceeded expectations, and I believe it has the potential to grow into a citywide event in the years ahead.

The way the charter amendment is written, if any one of those international visitors contacted our government, perhaps even in a life-threatening situation where they needed emergency medical care or just to get directions, our government employees would not be able to communicate with that visitor in their native language, even if we had the capacity to do so. Ladies and gentlemen, that is not the message we need to send the international community.

We have dozens of companies in Nashville participating in international commerce, and prospects for attracting many more. My office of economic and community development and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce work every day to attract business relocations and expansions to our city, something we must continue to do if we are to grow our economic base. Nashville’s growing importance as a center of international commerce is evidenced by the location of the Consular Office of Japan, which opened here this year.

Under the charter amendment, if Nashville wanted to communicate with a foreign-based company to encourage them to come to Nashville – and the recent announcement of Volkswagen in Chattanooga is a good example of the significance that could have – if we wanted to do that communication, whether it’s a letter or conversation in person, in the company’s native language, we wouldn’t be able to.

Nashville participates in the Sister Cities program. We have sister cities in Northern Ireland, France, Canada, Germany and China. This is a program built around the concept of promoting international cooperation and understanding. This amendment would prevent us from communicating with the municipal leaders we’re associated with through our sister city relationships in languages other than English.

We have a number of political refugees living in Nashville – people who have come to the United States from places like Sudan and Somalia who are escaping persecution in their own countries because of their religious beliefs or political beliefs. We need to be able to help these people assimilate in our community and become productive citizens without a self-imposed barrier on our ability to communicate with them.

People come to our city every year as new, legal residents, whose native language is not English. As a government, we have a responsibility to protect and care for all of our citizens no matter the language they speak. If they are a victim of a crime or reporting a crime, we need to be able to communicate with them.

The negative consequences of this amendment would be very real and substantial. It is a divisive issue, and ultimately, a distraction from those things that are important to us as a city and that we need to be working on together.

The decision to pass the amendment may ultimately rest with the voters. But I wanted to take this time, this opportunity to make sure my voice, as mayor of this city, is heard on this issue, and to assure that everyone fully understands the consequences of passing a law that will tie our hands in the global economy, that will detract from our appeal as an international tourist destination, and that will damage our reputation as a welcoming and friendly city.

Let us not forget, English is the official language of Tennessee. This is not in question. To put it plainly, we have too much potential to allow such an unnecessary change in our law to hurt us in so many ways. Thank you for your time tonight.

Full text of resolution

A resolution requesting the citizens of Nashville and Davidson County not to sign the English-only Charter amendment petition cards and not to support it if placed on the ballot.

WHEREAS, a petition drive is currently underway to place a proposed amendment to the Metropolitan Charter on the November 2008 ballot to designate English as the official language of the Metropolitan Government and to require that government services and official communications be provided only in English; and

WHEREAS, in February 2007, former Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed Substitute Ordinance No. BL2006-1185, which would have declared English as the official language of the Metropolitan Government, and would have required that all government communications, publications and telephone answering systems be in English, except when required by federal law or when necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare; and

WHEREAS, in his veto message to the Council dated February 12, 2007, Mayor Purcell referenced an opinion of the Metropolitan Department of Law that Ordinance No. BL2006-1185 was unconstitutional; and

WHEREAS, unlike the language contained in Substitute Ordinance No. BL2006-1185, the proposed ballot language contains no exception for public health, safety or welfare, which makes the ballot measure more likely to be found by the courts to be unconstitutional; and

WHEREAS, English is the common and unifying language of the United States of America, and is already the official and legal language of Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, English acquisition among new immigrants and refugees is a critical factor in their ability to obtain gainful employment, participate fully in the community, integrate successfully into American society, and qualify for United States citizenship; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County conducted an Immigrant Community Assessment in 2003 (contract #14830) "to gauge the adjustment of immigrants in the Nashville-Davidson county area," finding that roughly one-third of Nashville's foreign-born residents are "linguistically isolated," and making several recommendations to improve integration, which included:

1. "Increasing English-language instructional opportunities that are offered during non-working hours."
2. "Offering more English-language instruction at proficiency levels higher than the elementary level."
3. "Increasing the supply of bilingual emergency-service receptionists and providers".;


WHEREAS, an "English Only" Charter amendment would further reduce government services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, with a potentially detrimental impact on those who are already linguistically isolated; and

WHEREAS, in addition, such a Charter amendment sends a message to prospective individuals and organizations seeking to locate in Nashville that we do not value diversity in our community; and

WHEREAS, defending a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the English Only Charter amendment would cost the taxpayers of Davidson County hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time when Metropolitan Government employees are being laid off and services are being reduced due to the substantial strain on government resources; and

WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Metropolitan Government that this proposed Charter amendment not be placed on the November ballot.


Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as requesting the citizens of Nashville and Davidson County not to sign the English-only Charter amendment petition cards, nor support the measure at the November 2008 election in the event it appears on the ballot.

Section 2. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.
*The Nashville charter as amended by the petition would read, "[A]ll official government communications and publications shall be published only in English." With no exceptions, the policy becomes a language ban.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Are there payphones in the Andes?

By Fabian Bedne

Years ago my wife and I visited northern Patagonia. We spent a week in the town of Bariloche and also took a couple of trips. One trip was a tour that took us to Chile by hopping from boat to bus to boat and so on, all the while we were getting higher and higher in the Andes and getting more and more in the middle of nowhere - extremely beautiful and cool.

On one of the legs of this trip we happened to overhear English being spoken by a nearby couple - obviously angry. And as I looked I noticed that the couple, both enveloped with brand new Eddie Bauer luggage and clothing, needed my help. They were obviously tourists that were way over their heads trying to argue something with the ship’s staff. I walked ever to them and offered my assistance. They were a couple of New Englanders traveling through Patagonia. They spoke no Spanish and were mad because their travel agent had “lied” to them.

They wanted to travel to Chile using a tour their agent had sold them, but had just learned that the trip only took them to the border of Argentina and Chile and back. There was a way to go from the border on into Chile, but it was accessible a couple of days later. The couple was in complete and utter disbelief that they had been sold a package that was not workable. They had to make it to Chile in time to make connections in Santiago. They were very angry and upset that this was all wrong, and they were insistent that a tourist agent should be held responsible and should not lie to you.

I tried to explain that in Argentina things were different, that the expectations for doing business were not the same, and that they should finish the trip that day, return to Bariloche and redo the same trip in a couple of days. But they refused to listen. What they knew and believed about how the world worked was what was real to them. They believed they were entitled to their rights - the right to make a complaint, to expect redress and to get what they paid for. They were forced to continue on a trip through the lakes and their anger made the trip worse and worse. We arrived at our destination, a beautiful alpine looking resort by a lake surrounded by snowy mountains. They continued to be angry and were really annoyed that no payphone was available anywhere to make their complaints and new travel arrangements. Later they asked me to translate their requests with the border soldiers to find out if they could rent a car. But no car was available and they wanted to know if they could walk or pitch a tent, but that wasn’t possible as the way down the mountain was extremely hard. Finally they asked me to ask the Chilean military if they could spend the night in their post, the answer was that the woman could but not the man. I couldn’t tell if the border police were joking, but in any case that attitude and suggestion changed the minds of the New Englanders, and they agreed to go back to Bariloche as I had suggested. Unfortunately, they were still so angry that all during the rest of the trip they completely missed the amazing beauty of the place they were in.

I spent a good part of that day trying to understand why even after I explained the situation to them they refused to believe it. When I took a second look I saw that they were holding on tight to what they knew of how the world was supposed to work – that provided a sense of security for them. This is what they knew how to do. Yet, this was still surprising to me given that they were on a trip to explore the world and have new experiences.

As I see the immigration debate progressing in the USA, I feel like I am in that boat again. I see people extrapolating their beliefs and life experience and assuming that it applies to people all over the world.

The idea that you can “demagnetize” a place, that you can make things so hard for somebody that comes from the worst places on earth so that they will move on is so disingenuous, it is like expecting a payphone in the middle of the Andes.

Most Immigrants are not just moving to a new place casually. It is not like making the choice I did or so many Americans make to move from Ohio to Tennessee to be closer to family or to find a better job. These immigrants leave family and friends behind and face all kind of hardship both economic physical. They do so because there is nothing else to do to survive. The options at home may include death, sickness, living in shanty towns with no utilities, torture, brutality and all the results of extreme poverty, totalitarianism and isolation. And because life is so extremely hard back home there is nothing that anybody could possibly do that will make them turn around and go back. The worst of the worst situations in the USA is better than many of these folks could ever hope for in their own countries.

Making things hard for Immigrants only makes life harder for everybody. Immigrants already know how hard life is. Let's work on positive solutions that benefit everybody.

Photo by Dietmar Temps. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Your opportunity to voice an opinion on Nashville and the Environment

The Mayor's Green Ribbon Committee on Environmental Sustainability, created by Karl Dean last June, is seeking input from all residents and citizens regarding the types of environmental practices that should be developed in Nashville.
You may fill out the online survey or print the form and submitt it by regular mail to
Mayor’s Office

Attn: Jenna Smith

Environmental Sustainability Manager
100 Metro Courthouse

Nashville, TN 37201
According to Dean’s executive order of June 19, the Mayor's Green Ribbon Committee on Environmental Sustainability was created to assure that Nashville continues to be a livable city with clean air, clean water, open spaces, transportation infrastructure and an energy use profile necessary to provide a prosperous community for current and future generations.

The Nashville City Paper and the Tennessean reported on the Green Ribbon Committee shortly after its creation. The latter newspaper also listed the composition of the group, which does not include a single Hispanic in the committee of 24.

Monday, August 4, 2008

English-Only Metro Charter amendment petition is of grave concern to the NAHCC

Negative impact will affect Nashville's image as an inclusive and welcoming city

Through the following press announcement the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NAHCC), expresses support for Councilman Ronnie Steine's upcoming resolution for the Metro Council to go on record opposing the "English-Only" charter amendment ballot initiative.

English is already the "official and legal language" of Tennessee. In November of 2006, the Council passed resolution RS2006-1650, clarifying that state law already establishes English as the official language, and expressing concern that further English-only legislation could actually be bad for English acquisition.
While no one disputes the importance of learning English, it is of concern to the leadership of the NAHCC the implications of an "English-Only" law.
"The NAHCC is concerned about this proposal's impact to our economy and further economic development. "English Only" will hurt Nashville's tourism from foreign countries - country music is becoming a very popular genre in many foreign countries, many of them Spanish speaking countries- It will put a damper on legal immigration to Nashville" said NAHCC President Yuri Cunza.

"English Only" is very plainly anti- foreigner - it flashes a loud neon sign to all foreign nationals "NOT WELCOME". This does not represent the friendly and welcoming tradition of Nashville.
"Passage of this kind of legislation will damage ongoing efforts by city leaders, neighbors and organizations whose tireless work have made out of Nashville a great place to live, work and visit. Let's not further affect the economic growth and opportunities for our city and its people by showing and unwelcoming side of Nashville that does not reflect its residents" added Cunza.
The NAHCC has been instrumental in improving the image of our businesses and the community at large, promoting the importance of creating avenues designed to improve trade and communication levels.
"We want to encourage all Council members to support Councilman Steine's resolution as a display of solidarity in standing behind the multitude of important reasons "English Only" would be poor public policy and not good for Nashville" says Luis Bustillos Vice-Chair of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The proposed ballot initiative is "English-only" not "English-first." The initiative is an attempt to eliminate the use of all non-English languages by Metro government. The word "only" appears twice in the proposed language, and the word "first" doesn't appear at all. The outright prohibition is excessive and potentially dangerous. It will almost certainly be found to violate federal law and the city could end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars defending this misguided ballot initiative, only to see it struck down in court.
The promotion of "English Only" says to new businesses and students considering Nashville that foreign people are not welcome and will not be accommodated. According to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Japanese investment alone in Tennessee exceeded $9.4 billion in 2004, creating over 40,000 jobs.
"The threat to public safety and the ability of Nashville government to communicate with all city residents would be seriously compromised if this and other similar legislation came to fruition. Imposing an artificial language barrier will create confusion and make all Nashvillians less safe and divided" added Loraine Segovia a member of the Executive Board of the NAHCC.

TAKE ACTION: Click here to contact your Metro Council representative NOW!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

LIEs wanted. Reward: Better Public Schools

Commentary by Cesar A. Muedas
Let LIE be the acronym for Latinos In Education. Indeed, our public schools today need and want as many LIEs as possible. Truth be told, LIE as an organization is fiction at this time, but what is real is the increasing involvement of Hispanics in public schools; and that is a good reason to feel optimistic.
The Metropolitan Nashville Public School (MNPS) system has experienced very high growth in the number of Hispanic students in the last decade. The statistics and points of reference below are just a handful of so many relevant issues directly connected with population shifts and ethnic composition in our schools.

1. In 1996, Hispanics students in MNPS accounted for just above 2%. Last year 14% of students were Hispanic, that is one out of every seven.
2. Geographically the MNPS system is divided in 13 clusters. Five of them: Antioch, Glencliff, McGavock, Overton and Cane Ridge consolidate 85% of the Hispanic student population.
3. From a depressing and demoralizing 50% in 2005, the high school graduation rate for Hispanic students in Metro Nashville raised to 54% in 2007.
4. Unconfirmed estimates indicate that less than 5% of Hispanic students in Nashville live under the care of a head of household who is a registered voter.
5. There is a direct correlation between an active Parent-Teacher Organization or Association (PTO/PTA) and momentum for positive change in its school environment. Not quite half of all MNPS schools currently have a PTO or PTA in existence. A total of only eight schools last year had Hispanic parents as board members of their PTO or PTA.
6. There are ethnic gangs in public schools in Nashville. Anecdotal information consistently indicates that the parents or guardians of the active Hispanic gang members are not the first to recognize or acknowledge the student's involvement.
7. National statistics indicate that half of Hispanic minors are raised in the absence of one or both biological parents. Without over-stretching the figures, it is a good approximation to assume a similar ratio at the city level in Nashville.
8. The law mandates compulsory attendance for grades K-12, be it a formal school setting or home-schooling. What may merely sound as an obligation is also a priceless right: every child in Nashville is entitled to attend public school regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality or immigration status. Lack of conventional or legal documentation is no excuse for any child 18 or younger, Hispanic or not, to prevent enrollment in the public school system.
9. Despite the fast increase of Hispanic enrollment in MNPS, we are still waiting for the day when a public school in Nashville will get its first Hispanic principal ever.

So, where are the LIEs, and how significant are they?
In terms of being formally organized, Hispanics generating change in public education are directly and deeply connected with the organizations listed below.

[a] Comite de Padres Latinos (COPLA), under the leadership of Ernestina Gonzalez.
[b] HispanicAchievers of the YMCA, under the leadership of Jessie Van De Griek.
[c] Conexion Americas, under the leadership of Renata Soto.
[d] Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of Yuri Cunza.
[e] Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of Ramon Cisneros.
[f] Tennessee Chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, under the leadership
of Raul Lopez.
[g] Middle Tennessee Hispanic Democrats, under the leadership of Fabian Bedne.

Aside from formal organizations, I feel personally proud of the hundreds of public school Hispanic teachers and parents that day after day make their presence noticed and do not hesitate to have their voices heard despite barriers or differences in language or socio-economic status. I wish there were enough time and space to list each of them by name, but I feel happy to have seen, heard or shaken hands with so many of them.
I sincerely hope that items 1 through 9 above move you to reflection and action. I also encourage you to connect with any of [a] through [g] above at your earliest convenience. Our children – Hispanic or not, and especially during their school years - are thirsty for trustworthy and caring adults who will listen and be available when most needed. Their education is the best inheritance we can leave to them (not my words but practically a mantra among parents – Hispanic and non-Hispanic), and in terms of creating change and improvement in public education procrastination cannot be an option: “if not us, who?; if not now, when?”.

Cesar Muedas served as first president of COPLA, the Committee of Hispanic parents (Sep.2006-Sep.2007) and was the only Hispanic member of Mayor Dean's workgroup for the Project for Student Success (Dec.2007-Jun.2008).

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