Monday, June 30, 2008

Gabe Garcia survives to Nashville Star's Elite Eight

"Bringing in some performing ability to go along with his great country singing"

Gabe Garcia made it past the elimination round of tonight's Nashville Star on NBC. This puts Gabe into the top eight contestants; he needs to make it to the top six to pass Melanie Torres' seventh-place finish in Season Four. Beating John Arthur Martinez's second-place Season Two finish would give Garcia the top spot this year.

Read the full recap of tonight's episode at
Gabe is naturally glad to see his family and comes on to perform “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “The Fireman.” The judges thought he was great, finally bringing in some performing ability to go along with his great country singing.

Are there Spanish conversation groups in Nashville?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions of Are there Spanish conversation groups in Nashville?

The answer is, yes.

There are at least three Spanish conversation groups in Nashville. For more information, see the summaries and the links to each program below:

Charlemos Spanish
Charlemos Spanish, a conversation group for all ages, meets at the Palette Gallery 'n' Café (2119 Belcourt Ave. in Hillsboro Village) the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. There is no cost to attend or join. Each meeting begins with a presentation, in Spanish, by a guest speaker. For more about speakers, see our Program Speakers page. For a schedule of upcoming meetings, visit the Sister Cities Calendar. Please contact Elizabeth Worrell Braswell ( for more information.
Nashville Spanish Language Meetup Group
Bienvenidos, amigos! If you're interested in the Spanish language and Latin culture, come to our meetups and get to know other folks with the same interests. We come from many different Latin American countries, Spain, and of course the U.S. With weekly meetups, regular salsa parties (with our own DJs), and the occasional movie or other activity, there are plenty of opportunities to practice your dusty old high school Spanish. Don't be shy! Come hang out with us. Questions? Send us an email. Everybody welcome.
Conexion Americas' Conversemos Language Exchange Program
Sign up for the Conversemos Language Exchange Program! We have openings available for English speakers who need to improve their ability to communicate in Spanish (particularly conversation skills). Volunteer language mentors are willing to help you with Spanish, while you help them practice and improve their English.
Illustration of multilingual conversation by Markus Koljonen. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Nashville pastor says Mexican Triquis opening up to God

"Nothing in their life to look forward to ... until now"

From Mick Antanaitis, in the Belmont Church "Plog":
Triqui Indians in the state of Oaxaca have the reputation of being an ornery, reclusive, emotionally explosive, and, even violent, people. They fight. They fight with each other—other Triqui clans, villages, and political parties. They fight with other indigenous tribes. They fight with the police and the authorities. They fight with machetes, knives, arson fires, and guns. Just a few weeks ago, two young female Triqui political activists were killed nearby in cold blood. Many other killings are long unsolved. No one talks to outsiders. There is no need. They take care of their own business in their own ways.

“Outsiders” and their influences are generally not tolerated for long. It is not just Christian missionaries who have been run out of their areas, but all kinds of “outsiders.” The gospel has not penetrated very far into the Triqui culture—not from a lack of great trying on the part of some heroic missionaries from all kinds of places and over a long period of time. But it has been tough for the gospel to find the fertile soil that we know exists somewhere among the Triqui people.

However, something new, and incredible, is afoot. At least these 20-25 Triquis are defying the conventional notion that the Triquis will likely remain unresponsive to the message of God found in the Bible for all people. When asked why they come 45 minutes before the 8:00 start time, the elderly couple who arrive first say that for so many, many years they had nothing in their lives that they looked forward to—nothing. But now, they can’t wait for Sunday morning to come. They start thinking about and preparing for the journey on Friday. They can’t wait to fellowship with the others, to enjoy a hot breakfast together provided by their parent Mixteco Indian congregation, to sing songs in their Triqui language, to have the Bible read aloud in Triqui, to have the word taught and explained, to have a safe place to encounter Jesus, to meet other members of the family of God who speak Mixteco, Spanish, and, today, English.
For centuries, the small Triqui indigenous region — a 300 square-mile green oasis situated in the middle of the dry and eroded indigenous Mixteca region of western Oaxaca — has been known for endemic violence. The Triquis resisted Spanish colonial incursions and, in 1823, were the first indigenous people to rise up against the independent Mexican state, successfully beating back an attempt to evict them from their land.

After the Triquis were victorious in defending their territory in two wars — one in 1823, the other in 1843 — the Mexican government decided to shift its approach from direct, armed confrontation to a divide-and-conquer strategy, says Francisco L — pez Bárcenas, a Mixtec indigenous lawyer, historian and author of the forthcoming, San Juan Copala: Political Domination and Popular Resistance.

From the late 19th century to the present, internal divisions in the Triqui region, fomented by the state government, have led to cycles of political killings and massacres.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stephen Fotopulos: new director of Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

American Dream Banquet July 10

"Together, we will create a better Tennessee"

Stephen Fotopulos will become Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) effective June 30, according to this announcement by Sharmila Murthy, President of the Board of Directors of the coalition:
On behalf of the TIRRC Board of Directors, I am pleased to inform you that Stephen Fotopulos will be the new Executive Director of TIRRC effective June 30, 2008. After an extensive national search, the Board realized that the best candidate for the Executive Director position was actually within our own midst! Stephen joined TIRRC in 2004, most recently serving as TIRRC's Policy Director. As Policy Director, Stephen became a nationally recognized expert on immigration policy. He also partnered with grassroots organizers and communities to translate complex policy positions into effective campaign strategies. We are excited that Stephen is ready to take on the challenge of serving as TIRRC's second Executive Director!

Stephen came to TIRRC in 2004 with an impressive background in public policy analysis, including a Master's degree in Public Administration from Cornell University, as well as significant experience in management within the public sector. While at TIRRC, Stephen quickly became a leader within the organization, substantially bolstering both programmatic and organizational work. During his tenure, Stephen worked with TIRRC's immigrant leaders to help them develop the tools and confidence needed to engage decision makers on the local, state and federal level. He also successfully integrated important allies from numerous sectors in all of TIRRC's policy efforts. Stephen is committed to TIRRC's mission, principles and goals. He believes that immigrants and refugees should lead the campaigns that TIRRC undertakes, and will make expanding immigrant leadership within the membership, staff and board a primary priority during his tenure as Executive Director.

As many of you know, the founding Executive Director of TIRRC, David Lubell, will be starting a Masters in Public Administration program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in August. He will be officially stepping down as Executive Director on June 30, 2008, and will be leaving Nashville in the middle of July. Over the past six months, the TIRRC Board of Directors has been working closely with David and the TIRRC staff to ensure preparedness for David's departure. Now that a new Director has been chosen, the Board has established a Transition Committee to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. The Transition Committee is chaired by Avi Poster, who has over thirty years of leadership experience, both as a former school principal and as a leader in social justice organizations. The Transition Committee also benefits from the guidance of Mary Ochs, an outside consultant who has been working closely with TIRRC for over six years. Mary helped facilitate TIRRC's strategic planning process last year and also served as an outside resource to the Board Executive Search Committee this past year.

I would like to thank TIRRC's Board of Directors, TIRRC's staff, and all of our friends and allies for supporting us throughout the search and transition process. I would also like to give special thanks to JJ Rosenbaum who chaired the Executive Search Committee.

Please join me in congratulating Stephen! I look forward to seeing you at the American Dream Banquet on Thursday, July 10, 2008, where we will have an opportunity to formally congratulate Stephen on his new role as TIRRC's Executive Director and also to celebrate David's great accomplishments as the founding Executive Director!

Best wishes,

Sharmila L. Murthy
President, Board of Directors
From Stephen Fotopulos:

I am honored and excited to be selected as the new Executive Director of TIRRC. When my wife Susannah and I first moved to Nashville in 2004, we knew it would be a great place to raise a family. What we quickly learned was that Tennessee was home to one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in the country, and Nashville was becoming the international city of the South. I was drawn to TIRRC because of my graduate studies in immigration policy and the several years I spent living and working abroad. At TIRRC, I have had the unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with our immigrant neighbors in the struggle to build a more just and equitable society. The past four years at TIRRC have been the most fulfilling work of my career.

TIRRC's mission is to empower immigrants and refugees in Tennessee to develop a unified voice and lead a statewide movement for positive change. Our success as a coalition depends on the increased capacity of emerging, immigrant-led organizations, the continued development of immigrant leadership, and the full participation of these leaders in every facet of our work. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming months, to discuss the ways in which the organization fulfills its mission and to better understand the ways in which we can build upon our strengths.

For the last four years, I have benefited greatly from David Lubell's guidance and friendship, and I am humbled by the responsibility of leading the organization in his stead. The departure of a founding director poses healthy challenges for any organization. I am extremely fortunate to be joined by a dedicated, talented staff and an engaged, visionary board of directors in addressing these challenges. With the continued collaboration of community leaders, allies, and national partners, we will build on the momentum of David's leadership, carry out the organization's strategic plan, and ensure that TIRRC remains one of the most successful coalitions of its kind. Together, we will create a better Tennessee.

Thanks for your support.
Statue of Liberty photo by Ian Foss. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jaci Velasquez is the face of Nashville for Convention and Visitors Bureau

The current incarnation of, the home page of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, prominently features a hair-wild Jaci Velasquez in mid-dance. The Christian/ Latin/ Pop crooner has been the face of the city's online efforts to welcome visitors for a few weeks now.

Jaci's 13th studio album, entitled Love Out Loud, was released in March. A recent interview with Jaci and her husband Nic is here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Giving to Guadalupe congregation unites 6-year-old Elizabeth and 81-year-old Vita

Overbrook student and columnist's late mother among donors

$400,000 loan from diocese keeps doors open, donations still needed

"More than a church ... a refuge"

"My friend goes to that church and I wanted her to be able to keep going there"


For 6-year-old Elizabeth, the answer to the question about giving to save Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville was simple:
I wanted to send money because I wanted to help the church. I had saved money from the tooth fairy and from cleaning out the car so I wanted to help the people at the church. I know God would appreciate that. My friend goes to that church and I wanted her to be able to keep going there.
For 81-year-old Vita Hernandez Chávez, the answer was a matter of honoring a central figure of her faith and culture.

Mary the Mother of God, in her only appearance in this hemisphere, blessed this world with her presence over four days in December 1531 to an Indian man, Juan Diego. He had been widowed from his wife, cared for his sick uncle and survived the Spanish Conquest that butchered tens of thousands of indigenous people. St. Juan Diego also survived the local Aztecs, who sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives for years in worship of a serpent God.

Into this evil, Our Lady of Guadalupe with her dark skin appeared at a hilltop wasteland five miles north of Mexico City.

She promised to be a protectress. And as Pope John Paul II noted almost five centuries later, her appearance was meant to unite the European and indigenous people. The Spaniards came to Mexico and the New World at the direction of Spain's Queen Isabella. And Vita as a Mexican-American was descended from Juan Diego and the indigenous people.

So within weeks of one another, Elizabeth from Overbrook School gave all she had, $7, and Vita from her Oklahoma City nursing home bed gave $7,000 -- both sums to keep open Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville. One inspired the other. And Europe and Mexico were united by Our Lady of Guadalupe according to John Paul's vision.

For the past 45 days, raising funds to save Our Lady's has been difficult approaching a June 30 deadline to pay off the church's debt in an economic recession. But the miraculous acts of giving like those of Elizabeth and Vita have inspired advocates onward.

Sunday, Father Fernando Garcia and parishoners of Our Lady's hosted Nashville, opening their doors Sunday afternoon to give tours and cook food for more than 100 Anglo brothers and sisters united by a love for Our Lady of Guadalupe and her son, Jesus Christ. One set of people had given and one set had of people received, and they showed off the marvelous things they have done with this investment. With their own sweat, they've refurbished the former Baptist church and molded young minds in the faith of generations since St. Juan Diego. Incredible.

And to see the pride on these Hispanic faces was priceless and worth so much more to the heart than the despair in fearful faces being deported and harrassed.

Sadly, Nashville's Big Three TV news media weren't present, at least from what I could see, and from watching early evening newscasts. How sad and telling. If an undocumented worker been arrested, or immigration officials had conducted another raid of a worpklace, or some fool in Spring Hill was protesting his son's class singing a national hymn in Spanish as a class project, or some silly politician and his narrow-minded friends propose a ridiculous referendum about the obvious of speaking English but the unnecessary hate of a mandate or someone had complained about Electrolux in Springfield hiring undocumented workers, then the stories would have led the newscasts..

Ironically, NewsChannel 5's anchor on Sunday was reporter Scott Arnold, who used several days of airtime to chronicle the wrongs of Electrolux and undocumented workers and their families on the pitiful souls of native folks in Springfield. Yet Arnold apparently couldn't bother to drive only a few miles to Our Lady's and bring a camera for a few seconds of Hispanics in a positive light on Sunday evening's newscast.

Positive news about Hispanics and amazing stories of giving across ethnicities aren't considered newsworthy. Instead, we have to hear about a Titan player being arrested for DUI and people being killed on a railroad and a Goodlettsville man stabbing his roommates.

God help us. No wonder people are deserting the mainstream news media. Mr. Arnold, people want stories of hope, and you and your colleagues missed a big story of hope -- and achievement over adversity -- Sunday afternoon. Don't complain that you didn't know. If you didn't know, then you are either not trusted by the Hispanic community to be fair or you're not interested in being connected to a people who live just a few miles from your station.

It is your viewers' great loss, because Elizabeth inspired Vita and vice versa. Elizabeth's Spanish teacher told her students about the plight of Our Lady's and Hispanic families in Nashville from reading my column on John Lamb's provocative website, the Hispanic Nashville Notebook. The column included mention of Vita's initial gift of $3,000 to Our Lady in honor of her marriage to Natalio Chavez more than five decades ago at a church of the same name in a Topeka, KS, barrio.

So on the last day of school, Elizabeth brought $7 from her piggybank and gave it to her teacher. Elizabeth left a lot of adults on the Dominican Campus in tears with the purity of her gift. In honoring Our Lady, she also answered Pope Benedict's appeal to Americans to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Our Lady's in Nashville is the largest Catholic church in the diocese and Tennessee, says the Rev. Joe Pat Breen, pastor of nearby St. Edward Catholic Church. The good people of Our Lady's have contributed to save their church -- almost $75,000 -- while still supporting daily operations, staff and services to the community.

Parishoners at nearby St. Edward keep giving $3,000 to $4,000 per week for a total of more than $300,000 over the past year.

The effort to create Our Lady's is the dream of Father Breen. It was made possible through the generosity of the late Rev. Paul Durham's family that offered the land and buildings for less a third of their appraised value. Breen and Durham were good friends. Finally, it took the generosity of three local Catholics who put up the $1.5 million a year ago to allow time for fundraising. They've also paid an additional $70,000 in interest costs over the past 12 months. Those three Catholics come from St. Henry's, The Cathedral and Christ the King. They're being repaid so they can spread their giving to others in need.

Our Lady's is more than a church, or a "temple" as to the Holy Mother's wishes almost five centuries ago. It is a place of refuge for a people beset by politics and demonization from the heinous 287(g) deportation program enacted by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall and supported by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Lamar Alexander.

Within Our Lady's walls, no one is a stranger and love and compassion are unconditional. As the greatest American in our history -- the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- said: "Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

I realize my African-American brothers and sisters in Nashville know what it is like to mistreated and persecuted and your good news ignored by the mainstream news media. Let us join in our suffering and support one another in pursuit of justice for all. Perhaps we can do it in the upcoming general election. We'll come to your churches or host you in ours; we're united by the same God and cause.

For Our Lady's, we're still $400,000 short of the goal of $1.5 million to pay off the church's debt by June 30. Just to get to this point, besides the giving of Elizabeth and Vita, we have been very blessed. A stunning $100,000 donation came from St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin and the good Father Kirk. Holy Family Catholic Church and the good Father Alberts in Brentwood gave $25,000 despite being in the middle of their own building project. God bless both congregations.

How that's for crossing county and ethnic lines as Our Lady of Guadalupe promised?

The good sisters at the Dominican Campus in Nashville have given $500. And they are the ones who are educating Elizabeth, besides her fine parents.

In these last seven days, we will be saying more prayers and asking for more miracles of giving. And we will remember Our Lady's words, as taken from the website
Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in my crossed arms? Is there anything else you need?
Father Breen has successfully talked with the diocese to make a loan available to Our Lady's after June 30. Technically, Our Lady's is now saved. But it is not the best situation. The good people at Our Lady's really do not earn enough for the church to pay for its operations and social services -- and pay off a $400,000 loan each month. That's why we are praying over these last seven days for more gifts from $7 to $7,000 to make the loan payment more affordable.

Catholic Charities under the leadership of Nashville attorney Gregg Ramos will be opening an office at Our Lady's. That's positive news to start these last seven days. In the coming week, we must not fail extraordinary people of faith such as Elizabeth, 6, and Vita, 81.

In the early morning hours of June 7, on her mother's birthday, Vita Hernandez Chavez slipped away in her sleep under the watch of Our Lady to be reunited with her three sisters and Mama in heaven. Her devotion was rewarded.

She is missed desperately by those who adored her, including me, her son. She remains a marvelous mother and friend, who got me involved in political writing.

Her faith and devotion to Our Lady also remain alive in Elizabeth, who by God's grace and loving parents has many more decades of giving to inspire.

With Vita gone on to her eternal reward, Elizabeth now looks to us and how we will respond to their gifts from the heart. For these two marvelous souls from different cultures but one love of God, please consider giving to Our Lady's and build on the miracles of hope and faith for a better Nashville and world.

(Tim Chávez was a political columnist for 10 years with The Tennnessean newspaper in Nashville. For the past five years, he has been a regular contributor of political commentary to Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. and distributed over the Scripps-Howard News Service. He publishes a new political blog, Political Salsa, at


* Go to On the left side of the home page is a box labeled "Our Lady's". Click there and you can view a presentation about the church. Or you can go directly to a credit card form to donate.

* If you want to use mail, send your contributions to St. Edward Catholic Church, 188 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37211. On a bottom corner of the envelope, write "For Our Lady's".

* Checks should be made out to St. Edward Catholic Church but put "Our Lady of Guadalupe" in the "memo" part of the check.

* If you would like someone to come to your organization or place of worship to speak about Our Lady's and answer questions, please e-mail me at I'll be there at any time, day or place, for Catholics or non-Catholics, believers or non-believers. All are good people.

* If you can't give, you have our prayers that God will bless you in your difficult times. Remember, Our Lady of Guadalupe is there for you, too.

Photo of Virgin by Chris Short. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Photo of Elizabeth courtesy of her mother Carolyn and also of Overbrook School; Photo of Vita Chávez courtesy of Tim Chávez

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Suspiciously frequent" traffic stops drive Hispanic U.S. citizens out of Robertson County

When your neighbors don't see you as an American anymore, it's hardly a place you can call home

"People in Tennessee are scared of the police, and people in other states think we're racists."

The Tennessean reports here that Robertson County has lost a U.S. citizen couple due to "suspiciously frequent" traffic stops. The couple is Hispanic, and Robertson County is one of the Middle Tennessee counties where local law enforcement is introducing new and possibly overreaching immigration bureaucracies. has reported previously on how Nashville's reputation for southern hospitality is threatened when immigration enforcement efforts turn into a free-for-all against Hispanics in general (story here), and how cities with cold racial and ethnic climates can suffer an exodus of residents and become less attractive to big employers (like Nissan) who are looking to relocate (story here).

From the Tennessean story (I would disagree that the impact was unexpected):
The Rev. Tommy Vallejos, executive director of Clarksville-based HOPE, a Middle Tennessee Hispanic Advocacy organization, said he is concerned about Robertson County's two-step policy because officers must work from their suspicions without training in immigration matters. He said deputies have not managed to target "dangerous criminals" exclusively.

And the policy has had an impact that may not have been expected, he said. A Latino U.S. citizen couple Vallejos knows recently left Robertson County, tired of suspiciously frequent traffic stops, he said. And a Latino woman born in Texas considering a move to Middle Tennessee recently called Vallejos with questions about the area he wishes he didn't have to answer.

"This can't be good for Tennessee," he said. "People in Tennessee are scared of the police, and people in other states think we're racists."
The official in charge of the new Robertson County policy is Sheriff Gene Bollinger, who was President of the Tennessee Sheriffs' Association in 2006.

What Hispanic advocates like Vallejos demand, and what Hispanic citizens in general need, are for departments like Bollinger's to protect the public from sloppy police practices that result in, among other things, overzealous traffic stops and arbitrary enforcement based on the way a person looks. If it happens at all, it is a problem for Bollinger to weed out, even if the wrongdoing is not prevalent (in a testament to law enforcement in Robertson County, a previous directive from the Coopertown mayor to target Hispanics for traffic tickets seems to have been ignored - see paragraph about Coopertown here).

Also, most Hispanic and immigrant advocates believe that dangerous criminals should be the focus of immigration enforcement efforts, and not ordinary immigrants without visas, the vast majority of whom are in violation of a law only due to their having a job and not by causing public safety problems. The status quo blanket enforcement attempts, which even when catching criminals lean 80% toward misdemeanors, drain law enforcement resources away from what could be better targeted efforts against violent criminals who truly threaten the public.

Revisiting and revising local immigration practices would not only benefit the residents of Robertson County but would also ensure that Nashville's reputation for hospitality carries into the surrounding counties. What nobody needs is an intended or unintended hostility toward any ethnic group, caused by an indiscriminate attitude toward immigration.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scene tags CCA for "apathetic treatment" of immigrant children and families

image copyright Nashville Scene used with permission

"How would this facility have been if no one found out about it?"

HQ's inner musings still a mystery

"Mommy, where is God that he doesn’t want to help us? Mommy, tell God to come and take us out of here and take us to our house"

With its cover story this week, the Nashville Scene becomes the first member of the local media to take Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to task for its failings related to the imprisonment of immigrants., in this story about the Hutto immigrant family detention center in Texas, and in this story about deaths of immigrants in CCA custody, followed extensive news coverage of CCA from various media outlets outside Nashville. The established Nashville media, however, have been noticeably absent from the coverage of their hometown corporation, until now.

The Scene story chronicles the pattern of CCA's "controversies" related to treatment of people in its facilities, including one incident that hadn't been reported before. Unfortunately, the Scene did not leverage its proximity to the company to give readers any insight as to how CCA is facing these issues (Have the executive team, the board, or the shareholders considered big-picture questions regarding the detainment of families and children in general? Has anyone at CCA headquarters asked whether, as Amnesty International asserts, child detention itself is improper? Was there a point when CCA's top attorney should have advised against the contracts to detain children at Hutto, as one letter to President Bush asserts?). Neither CCA nor its corporate insiders are quoted in the article; they refused to comment, and the Scene wasn't able to get anyone at the Burton Hills headquarters to talk about the big picture.

From the story:
In the last 18 months alone, CCA has been the target of several stinging lawsuits supported by detailed affidavits and third-party reports alleging dangerous and inhumane practices that have put inmates’ lives at risk. Whistle blowers, once in positions of trust at CCA, have emerged from the shadows to tell vivid tales of corporate misconduct. Federal authorities have castigated the publicly traded corporation for operating an immigration detention facility in Texas on the cheap. And at that CCA complex—which at one point forced children of immigrant detainees to dress in prison garb—dozens of incarcerated women and children have come forward with gut-wrenching tales of anguish and neglect.
Elsa and her children wore prison uniforms and spent hours in their pod, often with no toys or books for the kids. One day, Elsa and her family were in the doctor’s office, where all the kids were playing with crayons. Angelina drew a picture, but a guard grabbed the girl’s artwork. She cried a lot at Hutto, wondering what her family had done wrong.

“Mommy, where is God that he doesn’t want to help us? Mommy, tell God to come and take us out of here and take us to our house,” Elsa recalled her daughter saying. “Mommy, why do they have us as prisoners if we have never killed anybody?”
By all accounts, Hutto is no longer as oppressive as it was when Elsa and her family first arrived from Honduras. But why didn’t CCA get it right from the start? Or to put it more bluntly, why did a rich company—one with $388 million in revenues last quarter—have to be told by the ACLU to cease treating innocent children like criminals?

“The point I’d like to make is that none of these changes were done voluntarily,” says [Barbara] Hines, the attorney. “When you look at CCA and ICE, the question is, how would this facility have been if no one found out about it?”
Image copyright Nashville Scene. Used with permission.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gabe Garcia: Nashville Star 6 contestant

John Rich: "Your voice is pure, pure, pure, great country music."

The sixth season of Nashville Star (Mondays at 8pm on NBC) features Gabe Garcia of Lytle, Texas as one of the contestants. Nashville Star is a country music single-elimination competition similar to American Idol and ran on the USA Network from 2003-2007 before moving to NBC this year. Gabe has already survived two weeks of elimination, with the judges raving about his voice. Judge John Rich said, "your voice is pure, pure, pure, great country music right there."

Hispanic country music singers and Hispanic country music audiences have been the El Dorado of the country music business in recent years, with the great reward never quite materializing. Nashville Star has previously featured two Hispanic contestants (John Arthur Martinez finished second in Season 1 and Melanie Torres finished seventh in Season 4), and CMT's Gone Country show awarded Julio Iglesias Jr. its top spot earlier this year. In 2007, the corporate side of the business commissioned a report on the potential of the Hispanic market (see here for more details on all of the above).

From Gabe's Nashville Star profile:
Gabe is proud of his roots and wants to inspire other Hispanics to pursue a career in country music, just as Rick Trevino inspired him. The ultimate Tex-Mex cowboy, Gabe left San Antonio and his job of 10 years after his father passed away last October. He's now following his dream and he's not turning back. With his family's support, Gabe wants to be the next "Nashville Star" with his mother cheering him on from the audience.
From the comments on a YouTube video featuring Gabe's Nashville Star appearances:
this guy is gonna be great Cant wait to see his performance tonight on NBC !!!!! NASHVILLE STAR 6 ROCKS
Gabe is great!! I never knew this boy could sing! Ohhh wow!! They were all dancing to his music! cool
Truth be told. He's the best. He's down to earth and he just loves everybody. He's a good friend of mine and my favorite artist from South Texas as well. Rock on buddy.
From Gabe's web site:
Gabe Garcia sings with a maturity and sound far beyond his 28 years. As a '98 graduate of Lytle High School, it was evident Gabe and his aspiring voice would touch the hearts of country music fans throughout south and central Texas.

Raised in Lytle by Mr. and Mrs. Juan Garcia Sr. and brother Juan Jr., Gabriel was influenced early on by artists such as Merle Haggard, Rick Trevino, and George Strait. He has opened for various well known country artists such as Blackhawk, Sherrie Austin, Ray Price, Kitty Wells, Richochet, and even performed for George W. Bush.

Among the many of his local and state honors, Gabe and his band recently won the South Texas State Championship in the Colgate Country Showdown. In 1997 Gabe won the 1997 Y100 Battle of the Bands and was the featured performer two consecutive years at the National FFA Convention. According to Wiley Alexander, Gabe is a personable and super-talented icon who pays great tribute to country music.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Luis Fonseca, executive chef of the Nashville City Club

Opened Basante's, father from Nicaragua

The Nashville City Paper published this profile of Luis Fonseca, the executive chef of the elite Nashville City Club. Fonseca's father was born in Nicaragua.

From the profile:
“My father put me in with his chefs when I was 17,” said Fonseca, who now serves as executive chef of the venerable Nashville City Club.

But long before then, the career of Nicaraguan-born Luis Fonseca Sr. impacted an impressionable lad.

“He used to come home at about 3 o’clock in the morning, wake me up, spend time with me, get a little sleep — and then go back to work,” the younger Fonseca said. “I remember my father working 16 to 17 hours a day. He was on his feet all the time.”

The physical toil eventually sidelined the banquet manager, a respected member of San Francisco’s diverse culinary community.

About that time, in the mid-1990s, Fonseca Jr. was pondering a move to Music City, lured by the opportunity to open with a relative what would become Basante’s.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mayor opposes sloppy language in charter amendment about language


Familiar, fear-favoring English Forced is back

English Forced is the idea that it is a good idea to prevent foreign languages from being used by government officials, supposedly because it forces internationals to learn English. In reality, there are a variety of reasons folks support English Forced, some of them (but not all of them) being foolish or sinister, or both. Among the factions in favor of it: those who think that hearing foreign languages is "forcing" those languages on them (see here), those who have a generally negative attitude toward people who are different in any way (see here), those who make the mistaken assumption that speaking in another language is an indication of legal status (see here), and those who even scare 287(g)-wielding Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall "to death" (his words).

The movement is now aiming for a Nashville comeback after its 2007 defeat. The Nashville City Paper editorialized here against the whole idea, even offering tips to the opposition. Kay Brooks criticized Nashville Mayor Karl Dean for saying that he is troubled by certain language in the proposed amendment to the Metro Charter (see here) (hat tip: Kleinheider). The Enclave's Mike Byrd takes the City Paper to task for its article about the English Forced campaign that left unchallenged the spokesman's arguments that (1) English Forced helps immigrants learn English, and (2) being married to a Japanese woman insulates him from charges of "being either prejudiced toward Hispanics or from whipping up the uglier fringes of the racist right to go to the polls in November." (Hat tip: Kleinheider again).

I chimed in later, responding to Kay Brooks in the comments section below her post:
The tone of your post implies that we are in a new American era of "handing out rights," but the USA has a long tradition of balancing competing rights and goals. Some rights and goals are simply greater than English-related or immigration-related goals. If Nashville's mayor can tell in advance that an argument that "English trumps everything" is a loser, I'd say it's not such a bad thing that we have a lawyer as a mayor.

Just ask yourself, what "right" is the charter amendment trying to take away? If the focus of the amendment's ire is that Metro communicates in other languages at times, how does that create a "right"? Such a practice may reflect - but not create - long-standing Constitutional rights related to access to justice, for example, in which case Mayor Dean is correct to see in advance that we'd lose a fight to take away such rights. Or, a Metro department might use other languages simply to enhance its ability to fulfill its mission - seeing better results when using certain foreign languages in communications. Again, that choice by Metro does not create any rights on the part of the user; if anything, it is a convenience to the government and a courtesy to the recipient. So the "rights" language is either Constitutionally unopposable in certain circumstances, or it is a straw man, and in either case Mayor Dean is wise to be troubled by the proximity of such sloppy drafting to our city's charter.

If you see this issue through the eyes of Metro departments, at stake is their power to individually determine whether additional languages will better allow them to implement their missions. Micromanaging those departments by putting an English mandate over the entire city will handicap Metro (and thus all of us, if Metro's goals are our goals) and not just our city's international residents. In an English Forced world, this predetermination of priorities would win the day without any weighing of the costs and benefits in each situation. (And if the charter amendment doesn't make this change, what real practical effect is it supposed to have?) As I've said before, Metro currently implements a variety of multi-lingual communication strategies on topics including 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 - and none of the agencies responsible for those communications have been quoted in any of the articles on the English Forced movement.

By the way, when you comment about citizenship and English proficiency, why the exclusive focus on citizens? There are more people here than just citizens. Foreign spouses can move here years before they are eligible for citizenship.

Finally, you imply that multiple languages in this country is also a new thing that could cost us dearly ("wait until he sees the bill for this new right.") Germantown in Nashville had German-language church services, schools, and newspapers for decades. At the Centennial Exposition for which Nashville's Centennial Park was created, Nashville's German newspapers were rightly lauded as one of the best methods of integrating new German immigrants, because through communications in their mother tongue they could learn about current events even while they were still uncomfortable in English. It wasn't until WWI, cowered by fear of their fellow Americans' anti-German fervor, when the German-Americans scrubbed the German language out of Germantown.

If Dean prefers to maintain our city's welcoming tradition instead of yielding to a movement tinged with fear (or worse), maybe our mayor with the law degree studied a little history, too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Symphony kicks off summer with sounds of Spain and Latin America

The Tennessean reported here that the Nashville Symphony and incoming director Giancarlo Guerrero will kick of the 2008 First Tennessee Summer Festival with a concert of Spanish Guitar, with an emphasis on "the traditions of Spain and Latin America," according to the Symphony.

From the Tennessean:
Incoming music director Giancarlo Guerrero returns to town to lead a program of works by Latin composers, including Spaniards Manuel De Falla and Joaquín Rodrigo, Brazil's Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mexico's Silvestre Revueltas and Argentina's Alberto Ginastera.

The featured soloist is the Cuban-born guitarist Manuel Barrueco, who has lent his prodigious talents to all kinds of music, from the classic works of Bach and Mozart, to the jazz compositions of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, to the contemporary music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. The emphasis here, however, will be on the alternately percussive and lulling sounds of his Latin heritage.
From the Symphony:
June 13, 2008, 7:30 p.m.- Laura Turner Concert Hall

June 14, 2008, 7:30 p.m.- Laura Turner Concert Hall

Nashville Symphony
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Manuel Barrueco, guitar

De Falla - El sombrero de Tres Picos (Three-Cornered Hat) No. 2
Rodrigo - Concierto de Aranjuez
Villa-Lobos - Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4
Revueltas - Sensemaya
Ginastera - Estancia: Four Dances

Manuel Barrueco is internationally recognized as a superior instrumentalist with a seductive sound and uncommon lyrical gifts. To kick off our next Summer Festival, Barrueco weaves together the traditions of Spain and Latin America for a night of música fantástica!

Summer Festival Feast
Come early and enjoy a Summer Festival supper prepared by our award-winning chefs and accompanied by strolling musicians. The buffet, which is available for purchase at each event, has a sumptuous menu
Photo of Manuel Barrueco from

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Single fathers without visas are not fathers, according to state rules

Tennessee withholds recognition of parenthood

At a time when American institutions are rightly realizing that immigration law has to be considered in a balance, and in that balance immigration can be and is often less important than other rights and legal responsibilities such as equal protection and the right to marry, the
Tennessean reports here that state rules currently put immigration ahead of identifying the parents of a newborn baby. Unvisaed single fathers are being barred from appearing on their newborn child's birth certificate:
In a flurry of pain, excitement and tears, her 7-pound, 1-ounce daughter, Christina, entered the world by emergency Caesarean section. Hours later, Baptist Hospital staff told Hernandez and her then-fiance that his name would not appear on Christina's birth certificate.

It wasn't the hospital's choice. State policy requires unmarried fathers to present government-issued identification or proof they're in the country legally to be listed on birth certificates. And in 2006, Tennessee stopped issuing driving certificates to illegal immigrants.

The pair of unrelated policies is spawning broader emotional, legal and social implications.

Hernandez, a U.S. citizen who works in hospice care, said she doesn't see the correlation between immigration status and fatherhood.

"Now my daughter has a father who loves her and no legal rights where she is concerned, no legal responsibility and no legal recognition that he gave her life," she said.
Even the pundit who the Tennessean quotes as being in favor of the rule calls it "weird."

For related commentary, see The Misery Strategy, the Doomsday Clock, and the Great Immigration Panic.

Photo: from this scene in Back to the Future. The character on the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance floor who tries to separate George McFly from his future wife Loraine (thus threatening the existence of Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly) is identified in the script as "Obnoxious Kid."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez Jr. #2 pick in MLB draft

Was National Freshman of the Year, All-American, played for Team USA, tied for career school home runs with 49

Baseball financed education

Turned down six figures before attending Vandy

"Gut instinct I needed to come to college"

Family moved to USA from Dominican Republic

"El Toro," "El Matatan"

From Vanderbilt press release:
Pedro Alvarez, third baseman for the Commodores baseball team, was selected as the No. 2 draft pick in the country Thursday, June 5, in the Major League Baseball Draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates picked him after the first draft pick went to the Tampa Blue Rays.

Three years ago, Alvarez was offered almost a million dollars to play for the Boston Red Sox. But Alvarez, 18 at the time, turned down the money and honored his commitment to Vanderbilt--and to his own education--instead.
From the Nashville City Paper:
In 2006, he was named National Freshman of the Year. In 2007, he earned consensus All-America honors. In 2008, despite missing 23 games with a hand injury, he still hit nine home runs and finished in a tie for the career school lead with 49.
At El Nuevo Caridad restaurant in Washington Heights, $12.95 can get you a special of ox tail, rice, pinto beans and lemonade, otherwise known as "the Pedro Alvarez." And though the dish is not quite as renowned as a "Manny Ramirez" (goat stew) or a "Pedro Martinez" (chicken stew with avocado) -- at least not yet -- it's special nonetheless to the baseball-loving owner who serves it.

"Pedro [Alvarez] is the heart of this community," says Miguel Montas, owner of Caridad. "If I've dedicated plates to people that I've met after they were in the big leagues, then why wouldn't I dedicate a plate to somebody I see as a son?"
"When I was choosing [whether] to go play baseball or come to college, I just had this gut instinct I needed to come to college," Alvarez says.
That judgment is a credit to Pedro Sr. and Luz, whose quiet demeanor was passed on to her son. The family, like many Hispanic families, is extremely close.
Video of Draft Day at home with the Alvarez family, from

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In the nearby Hall of Fame club, where a group of 125 season-ticket holders were invited to watch the event on TV, broke out into what one observer called "great applause."
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Nicknames are "El Toro" (The Bull) and "El Matatan" (The Man)
Alvarez's parents, Pedro Sr. and Luz, came to the United States from the Dominican Republic two decades ago. Alvarez was 1 year old when the family settled in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan.
From the New York Times:
The elder Alvarez handed his son a baseball bat at the age of 3, and Pedro has not let go. Like many others in their mostly Dominican neighborhood — an area that straddles Washington Heights and Inwood — the Alvarezes hoped their son’s skills on the baseball field, if carefully tended, might one day finance a college education.

His parents went to college in the Dominican Republic, but when financial responsibilities intervened, they took jobs and neither graduated. In 1981, Pedro Sr. arrived in New York. His wife and 1-year-old Pedro followed in 1988. Their daughter, Yolayna, was born a year later.

“He always wished that his first child would be a boy,” Yolayna Alvarez said recently, interpreting for her father, “and that he would be able to go to school because of baseball. And that’s exactly what happened.” She just finished her freshman year at St. John’s University, and she hopes to eventually attend law school.
Also from the New York Times:
“He was the only guy who could hit the ball over every single tree,” said Elbert Garcia, his friend since elementary school.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shake it with Los Ritmos, a recently launched site for latin music and dance lovers in Nashville, sent out this events update:
Summer is on its way and things are heating up in Nashville! This month we have more live music than ever!! Not to mention an impromptu Sunday (the 8th) salsa workshop with our salsero friends from Ohio…

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and DANCE!!!!!!

|~><~|~><~|~><~ JUNE CALENDAR ~><~|~><~|~><~|

Visit our calendar for the latest information

June 6-8 - Friday thru Sunday

Latin Dance Festival
Global Education Center

June 8 - Sunday

Salsa Workshops with Israel & Jose
from Salsa Rhythms Dance Company – Cincinnati, OH
Ibiza Nightclub 1-4pm
1:00 - Shines on 1
2:00 - Turn Patterns & Combinations on 1
3:00 - Class TBA
$15 each, $25 for two or $35 for all

Trova Urbana
Las Casuelas - 6pm
Las Casuelas 3rd Anniversary Party
Also featuring Swing Latino at 8pm

June 14 - Saturday

Barroco Orchestra from Miami
with special guest Jay Franco
Father's Day Live Music Event
Cielo Nightclub & Salsa Lounge - 10pm

June 19 - Thursday

Samba Nove
Ashland City Summerfest
Riverbluff Park - 6-10pm

June 20 - Friday

Samba Nove
Bridging the Gap Mixer - 7pm-Midnight
Shelby Street Bridge

Coco Loco - 9pm

June 26 - Thursday

Samba Nove
Z's Five Points Deli - 7:30pm

June 28 - Saturday

International Music Festival
Centennial Park Band Shell
More information to come...


Las Casuelas now has live music on Sundays!
Featuring Swing Latino (7pm)

One June 8th Trova Urbana also performs for
the Las Casuelas 3rd Anniversary party!


Don't miss Cielo's Special Noche de Salsa
Saturday, June 14th
Featuring: Barroco Orquesta from Miami
with special guest Jay Franco
free salsa lessons


Don't forget Coco Loco's Special Salsa Night
Friday, June 20th
Carlos Negron y su Orquesta
free salsa lessons


Also - don't miss this...

Every Tuesday!!!!
Giovanni Rodriguez
with special guests: Rahsaan Barber,
Paul Horton, Edwin Santiago & more ...
JavaNET Cafe in Hermitage - 8pm
No Cover!



The Rhythm of the city at your fingertips
Photo by Michael P. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

March tonight for Living Wage and Workers Rights

Immigrant coalition supports workers movement

Campaign aims for fair compensation and just treatment for day laborers

Launch of "The Nashville Movement"

From The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition sent out this notice of a "Rally to Launch The Nashville Movement: A Coalition for Economic and Racial Justice:"
Some of the hardest working yet lowest paid residents of our city will be accompanied by hundreds of students, community organizations and congregations in a march for living wage and workers rights

What: Rally followed by a march for living wage and worker’s rights

When: Thursday June 5th, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.

Where: Rally at 15th Ave. Baptist Church, 1203 9th Ave. North followed by a march to Metro Court House

Why: The poorest workers, from taxi drivers to cleaning workers at the Sommett Center, desperately need to have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.

The Nashville Movement is a growing coalition, of workers, community organizations, students, and congregations, committed to ending poverty, and winning respect, with and for the poorest workers in Nashville. The coalition was formed in 2007 by the Middle Tennessee Jobs with Justice, Nashville Homeless Power Project, the Urban Epicenter, and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

The Nashville Movement is picking up in the successful legacy of the 1960’s civil rights struggle in Nashville. But now we’re not just organizing for a seat at the lunch table, we want to be able to afford what’s on the menu. The Nashville Movement is laying the ground work for a broad based worker rights movement that can win lasting improvements for the poorest workers.
According to the web site of The Nashville Movement, one of the group's campaigns will focus on day laborers:
Day laborers in Nashville are some of the hardest working, most exploited, least paid workers in the city. This campaign is resolved to make sure their hard work is compensated fairly and that they are treated justly by their employers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Manuel prominent in Nashville Opera campaign

The Nashville Opera Raise Your Glasses fundraising campaign prominently features Manuel, Nashville's Mexican-American tailor to the stars, in a variety of web ads and billboards.

Manuel recently turned 76 with a birthday bash covered by the Tennessean in this story and this set of photos.

From the birthday story:
Legendary couturier Manuel celebrated his 76th birthday with one of his famous all-day fiestas atop the mountain at his Triune-area home.

The event welcomed hundreds of friends, family and well-wishers, with impromptu performances from some of his singer-songwriter pals. Rosie Florez dedicated the tune "Hot Dog" to Manuel's daughter, Morelia,who also served as hostess and emcee for the event. Joshua Black Wilkins also performed, as did Danny Salazar, Rachel Rodriquez and Pino Squillace, who together roused the audience of margarita lovers with a bit of Latin flair.
From the Nashville Opera press release:
Nashville Opera ushered in a new era of drama, spectacle and artistic distinction today as the company unveiled plans for the Noah Liff Opera Center and the Fund for Artistic Excellence. The Opera's $12 million Raise Your Glasses capital campaign will fund the visionary $6 million opera center, the first-ever permanent home for the community-supported nonprofit organization, which has established a reputation for eminence in the 400-year-old art form here in the nation's Music City.

The Raise Your Glasses campaign, which has already garnered three-fourths of its $12 million goal, will also provide for the Fund for Artistic Excellence. The Fund will augment the organization's ability to expand its education and outreach programs and enhance the artistic quality of its productions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hispanic graduates of Nashville high schools celebrate against the odds

Committee of Latino Parents highlights achievements of 200 students

Graduation rate the lowest among five racial and ethnic groups

"Not everyone wants you to succeed because you're Hispanic"

Lipscomb announces grants up to $22,000 for entering freshmen

The Tennessean reported here on last Saturday's graduation celebration for Hispanic students in an event hosted by the Comité de Padres Latinos (COPLA), [Committee of Latino Parents], a parents group focusing on communication with MNPS Latino parents. According to Metro Nashville Public Schools, more than 200 Hispanic students who graduated from high school this year were honored, along with their parents. The event was held at the Allen Arena of Lipscomb University, which announced at the event that it will offer grants of "up to $22,000 per student over a four-year period to Latino students who meet the university’s admissions criteria."

According to the Tennessean, "[d]uring the 2006-07 school year, 57.7 percent of eligible Hispanic students in Metro graduated high school, the lowest percentage among five racial and ethnic groups, including African-Americans and whites, district figures show. The school system's overall graduation rate last year was 70 percent."

Also, according to the Tennessean, "[i]n the last five years, the number of Hispanic students attending Metro schools nearly doubled, from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 13.3 percent last year."

The Tennessean quoted Overton grad Juan Camarena about his record after living in the U.S. for only three years:
"I consider it to be an achievement to be Hispanic and graduate with a 3.98 GPA. I moved here three years ago," he said.

"It was hard, coming here with a struggle of leaving your country and getting adapted to a new culture. This is the land of dreams. I came here to find my interpretation of the American Dream."
Also quoted was Thriane "Triana" Lopez of Glencliff:
"Sometimes you feel like it's hard to graduate because not everyone wants you to succeed because you're Hispanic. I see it all the time."
For more stories on statistics or education, click on the "Stories About" links in the left-hand column of this page.

From Metro Nashville Public Schools:
The community stakeholders working with COPLA for this year’s event included the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lipscomb University, Harding Place Family YMCA-Hispanic Achievers, Conexión Américas, Prevent Child Abuse of Middle Tennessee, Spanish-TV, Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations.

Guest speakers were Mayor Karl Dean, attorney Gregg Ramos, Pastor Tommy Vallejos and others.

A reception was held following the ceremony, with food provided by members of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and live entertainment by Son Latino and Maria Benham.

COPLA was organized two years ago to help build relationships with the parents of Hispanic students, who comprise more than 14% of the district’s student population. The organization meets monthly to share information and resources available to Spanish-speaking families, as well as develop ways to educate families on the important role of parental involvement in student success.
From Lipscomb University:
Lipscomb University will begin offering grants of up to $22,000 per student over a four-year period to Latino students who meet the university’s admissions criteria, Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry announced Saturday at the Comité de Padres Latinos (Committee of Latino Parents or COPLA) Hispanic Student Graduation Celebration held in Allen Arena.

“The Latino population in our region is growing daily and more than 26,000 Latino students are already enrolled in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools alone. Access to the best higher education opportunities is vital to the success of the Latino community and our region, and Lipscomb is pleased to take the lead in providing that access,” Lowry said.

The Hispanic Achievers University Grants program is the second initiative Lipscomb has established this year to reach out to Latino students. In the spring the university established the Saint Thomas Health Services Nursing Advantage Scholarships for Hispanic nursing students.

More than 14 percent of Nashville’s public school students are Latino, and according to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 Workforce Study, 83 percent of new Hispanic residents arriving in Nashville between 2000 and 2006 were either prime working age adults (25-44) or children under age 14.

So the city has a large population of strong, motivated Latino students and potential students who one day will become valuable employees and leaders in the community. But a great many of these students do not make it to college due to their financial situation and cultural upbringing. A survey of local colleges listed on found only one local college with a Hispanic student population above 3 percent.

“Lipscomb University has established the new Hispanic Achievers grants to let these students know they are welcome at Lipscomb and we want to help them achieve their dream of a college education,” Lowry said.

Admissions criteria for Lipscomb freshman are a grade point average of 2.5 or better, an ACT score of 21 or higher (or equivalent on the SAT) and strong educational and personal references.

“We have honor roll students and National Honor Society students in our program who sit in our office crying because they can’t go to college,” said Jessie Garcia Van De Griek, director of the Hispanic Achievers program at the Harding Place Family YMCA. Hispanic Achievers helps middle and high school students to develop leadership skills and prepares them for college through school clubs, tutoring and one-on-one assistance in applying for college.

“For Lipscomb to come in and tell these students ‘We are going to join arms with you and make this dream happen’ gives us such a rush of happiness because we can now give our students something tangible to inspire hope. We can tell them that this grant can help make a future education possible.”

According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission 2007-08 Fact Book, the Latino student population in Tennessee’s public colleges has increased by 1,599 students (or 74.2 percent) from 1997 to 2007. But Latinos still make up a very small percentage, less than 7 percent, of the student population at public universities.

Van De Griek says her program has about 40 students this year who have applied to local colleges including Lipscomb University.

“COPLA understands education is the key for our young people to succeed,” said Ernestina Gonzalez, chair of COPLA, a parents group focusing on communication between the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Latino parents. “For this reason, we are extremely happy that prestigious universities such as Lipscomb support the talent of our Hispanic students. On behalf of the Hispanic community in Davidson County, COPLA is very grateful for this support.”

Low incomes and lack of knowledge about the college admissions process and available scholarships are the biggest obstacles to Latino students entering college, Van De Griek said. “We spend a lot of time researching scholarships across the country that our students are eligible for. Nationwide there is $30 million in scholarship funds designated for minority students, but much of it goes unclaimed because students don’t know it is available,” she said.

By announcing the new Hispanic Achievers grants at the COPLA event, Lipscomb hoped to boost awareness of this new opportunity among Nashville students and to change their mentality to a college-bound mindset, said Lipscomb’s Director of Admissions Ricky Holaway, who has worked with the YMCA’s Hispanic Achievers program to enroll students.

“This lack of awareness has been a major obstacle for many low-income families in the Latino population,” said Wendy Chavira, researcher and associate director of operations at the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, which compiles a directory of scholarships for Latino students. “Students need the drive to apply for each scholarship opportunity, because there's not one form to fill out. Each scholarship has its own application. But the effort is well worth it.”

For those interested in applying for the Hispanic Achievers University Grants, contact the Lipscomb University Admissions Office at 615.966.1000 or log on to
Hat Tip: Fabian Bedne

Photo by Charline. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Musico a Musico and Allegro Institute launch Spanish-language Worship Arts Academy

Nashville-based Musico a Musico, which conducts musician training for Spanish-speaking Christians around the world, will be starting a Spanish-language Worshiping Arts Academy in Nashville in conjunction with the Allegro Institute.

From the Musico a Musico blog:

The registration started for the Allegro Institute in Nashville, TN, the classes are Schedule to start Saturday July 12. There are many already signed up, and many interested and planning on registering. In Nashville, Allegro Institute will start this with a very important partnership with Músico a Músico in the city of Nashville. MaM is a ministry dedicated to have Congresos of praise, worship, and arts in different cities in the Latin world. The Allegro Institute is joining efforts with MaM to start this program in Nashville. We believe that this union and the classes from Allegro Institute/Músico a Músico in the city of Nashville, TN will be the beginning of a long project for both institutions.

The Director of Instituto Allegro/Músico a Músico in Nashville is Rachel Vasquez who has been working hard to have every detail ready for the start of the classes.
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