Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Daughter's appreciation, memories of home mark birthday for Mack of Coyote Chronicles

"My daughter wrote me a beautiful note, thanking me for pushing her to excel"

"As soon as I heated up a tortilla... I was close to tears"

Local Hispanic blogger Mack, of Coyote Chronicles, told this moving birthday story earlier this month:
Last night, the Primary Wife and the Kids and i had a nice dinner, and I even got some PJ’s I can’t wait to wear. It was terrific. My daughter wrote me a beautiful note, thanking me for pushing her to excel and basically acknowledging that I indeed, along with her mother, do my best to provide for her and her brother. It was a wonderful gift to get.

I was a little tired. But, more than that, a bit pre-occupied. See, i have been been thinking about my parents quite a bit lately. Though they are both gone, for some reason, I feel very close to them right now. Tonight I cooked a fried chicken dinner for me and the kids, and the smell of frying chickens almost made me sad. I can’t explain it. As soon as i heated up a tortilla to eat with it, I was close to tears. I could feel my mother in the room. She was standing at the stove, at 3:00 a.m., cooking me a tortilla with butter because i decided to bang on her door at 2:55 a.m. The very first question out of her mouth was “are you hungry, Mijo (Mi Hijo)?"
Read the original in its entirety here.

Photo by Joey Gannon. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fish taco faceoff at Nashville Scene

The Scene gives us dueling views of the fish taco fare at Baja Burrito and La Hacienda

Photo by Sergio Recabarren. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Before Volz do-over, Nashville jury gives unvisaed youth a fair trial, applies the law's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard to murder charges

Nashvillian Eric Volz announces his Nicaraguan murder re-trial days later, denounces hidden motives

NewsChannel5 reports here that a Nashville jury has unanimously acquitted a young man accused of murder who is in the U.S. without a visa.

Two jurors told NewsChannel5 that they couldn't "add all of [the evidence] up together" under the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, and they therefore could not vote to convict the defendant Jose Murillo Sosa of the tragic and brutal murders of Lori and Adrian Rountree. One of the jurors said that they "don't want a guilty man walking free" but that they also "wouldn't want to see an innocent man spend time in jail."

The fact that the jury could see an unvisaed defendant as potentially innocent at all and apply the same "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard to him as they would to any other defendant is a testament to the American justice system working out the difficult decisions of guilt or innocence with an even hand, at a time when unvisaed immigrants in the U.S. have been the target of a great deal of negativity in recent years.

The acquittal came within days of the news that Nashvillian Eric Volz announced that he is to be retried in Nicaragua for the similiarly brutal and tragic murder of his ex-girlfriend (story here), in a case in which he says the accusations against him are fueled by anti-immigrant (in this case, anti-American-immigrant) sentiment in Nicaragua (story here). Volz was originally convicted of this murder and spent over a year in jail, but his conviction overturned on appeal (story here).

In the recent acquittal, Nashville is providing an example to the world of what it means to have equal justice for all, reinforcing in at least this one case the previously expressed opinion by Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson that even illegal immigrants can get a fair trial in this city.

Hat tip: Political Salsa

Friday, November 21, 2008

2008 Hispanic Achievement awards from Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber

Hispanic Nashville Notebook receives Journalism & Hispanic Community Award

Mayor Karl Dean recognizes "the thousands of Hispanics in Nashville whose love of family, hard work, and sense of community have helped unite us"

The Tennessean published this story about the recently announced Hispanic Achievement awards from the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce*. The full press release is available on the Chamber's web site. Excerpts are below:
Following a powerful rendition of the National Anthem by Hispanic-American singer Rachel Rodriguez, an eloquent Mayor Karl Dean presented to NAHCC members and guests a Proclamation recognizing "the thousands of Hispanics in Nashville whose love of family, hard work, and sense of community have helped unite us."

The program continued with the invocation by Pastor Tommy Vallejos, Director of H.O.P.E (Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education) and a message by Fabian Bedne, Raúl Lopez and Santos Gonzales with "Ya Es Hora Tennessee" a grass root Hispanic voter registration and civic awareness group launched earlier this year.

Below is the list of recipients of the 2008 NAHCC Hispanic Heritage Month Awards:

~ Hispanic Business Advocate Award ~
* Santos Gonzalez, Coco Loco Restaurant

~ Hispanic Entrepreneur Achievement Award ~
* Mario Ramos, Attorney

~ Hispanic Community Advocate of the Year Award ~
* Gregg Ramos
* Tom Negri
* Elliott Ozment

~ Outstanding Arts & Culture Achievement Award ~
* Nashville Symphony Conductor: Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero

~ Outstanding Advocacy in Education Award ~
* COPLA - Committee of Latino Parents

~ Outstanding Business Achievement Award ~
* Palette Gallery

~ Journalism & Hispanic Community Award ~
* Hispanic Nashville Notebook (

~ Diversity in Journalism Award ~
* P.J.Tobia, Investigative Journalist

~ NAHCC Chair's Award ~
* State Water Heaters

~ Outstanding Leadership and Service Award ~
* Loraine Segovia Paz

~ Appreciation Award ~
* Yuri Cunza, NAHCC President

NAHCC Special Recognitions
* Marilyn Robinson (Nashville Minority Business Center)
* Cheri Henderson Tennessee Suppliers Development Council (TNSDC)
* David Tiller, Small Business Administration (SBA)

NAHCC Award Announcements
* Latino Arts & Hispanic Filmmaker Award
* COPLA Scholarship Award

For additional information please contact the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce by phone: 615-216-5737 or via email:

The Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was founded in 2001 and actively promotes the economic growth and development of Hispanic entrepreneurs while representing the interests of more than 200 businesses in the greater Nashville area. Please visit
Photo courtesy of Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

how many Hispanic chambers are there in Nashville?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nashvillians are already opposing English charter change, with or without campaign

Hundreds write letters, blog posts, join new Facebook groups

Nashville residents are increasingly urging an "Against" vote on January 22, in opposition to the proposed English charter change (also described as English Only, English First, or a language ban).

With the ballot box little more than two months away (and early voting starting even sooner), the grassroots opposition has been simmering for months on blogs and in letters to the editors of local newspapers, and it has now spread to Facebook groups and a number of organizations around town.

There is still no public campaign being waged by the group called "Nashville for All of Us," which has filed with the Election Commission for the purpose of opposing the measure (story here). The lack of any public movement by the group has been lamented by the Nashville City Paper in this editorial.

But ordinary Nashvillians are speaking up, with or without a formal campaign.

Four new groups on Facebook, for example, are only days old but have drawn hundreds of members:


On local blogs, there are a number of comments advocating defeat of the measure, for various reasons excerpted below.

Aunt B.:
Pushing an anti-immigrant agenda–with your “English-only” nonsense and your 287(g) programs and your raids–makes employers, especially international employers leery of locating here. It’s not just a matter of whether they want to hire “illegal” immigrants. It’s that we look hostile to people who are different than us. If an employer in, say, Japan wants to set up a technology-based industry in the U.S. (perhaps to save on shipping), he’s going to want to send a core group of people over here to set up the business and run it, at least for a while. If you’re going to send your best and brightest, most trusted employees half-way around the world, you’re not going to keep those employees if you send them to a place that openly hates them.

...makes employers, especially international employers, leery of locating here.

Jay Voorhees:
The only want that we can overcome this movement is to make sure that the turnout to vote against his legislation is so overwhelming that they dare not bring it for consideration again.

So Nashvillians, it’s time to get the network moving. Contact all of your friends, your family members, anyone who thinks that this election is a waste of time and money and that that this legislation is inhospitable, and get them to vote against this proposal.

Contact all of your friends, your family members, anyone who thinks that this election is a waste of time and money and that that this legislation is inhospitable...

Rosanne Ferreri-Feski:
Nationwide negative press has also followed Nashville in the wake of its desire to spread "English only" throughout metro government offices. USA Today, among others, has written negative reviews about our city, a city which touted itself on being inclusive and diversity-forward in its marketing. The nation is watching Nashville and we are giving them plenty to discuss.

The nation is watching Nashville and we are giving them plenty to discuss.

Mike Byrd has an entire series of posts on the topic, including this one:
[The] English Only charter referendum, coming for a vote in January, will live or die on the votes of the African American community, just like California's Proposition 8 resolution did last week. It will be ironic if Eric Crafton wins his fight against Nashville's immigrant community the same week we commemorate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the American civil rights struggle.

...the same week we commemorate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the American civil rights struggle.

Erica Well:
As it stands, the amendment removes instead of clarifies, and diminishes Metro instead of strengthens it. If enacted as is, it means Metro government will not allow itself to translate any of its government business paperwork into any other language. So (just for starters) DMV forms, car registration forms etc., -- all that ancillary government paperwork translated out of courtesy to new immigrants so they can conduct their proper business as they learn English -- will no longer be in other languages other than English.

So what's wrong with that, you say? They have to learn English, you say. It makes no sense, I say. English is not absorbed by osmosis, it is learned. (And on a larger scale, anyone remember being taught about the Rosetta stone back in High School?)

It then makes no sense that Metro should cut back on its authority over its new immigrant citizens by not providing translations for certain services. Why would we cut back on our authority? Metro has to make this basic paperwork available in other languages so people can do the right and legal thing when they get here.

It then makes no sense that Metro should cut back on its authority...

Nathan Moore:
No rationale for pushing for this charter amendment, either substantively (which I have discussed before) or procedurally, can be taken from a conservative political philosophy. It is too late to pull back now - the signatures are in. But we can take a lesson about this before January, and realize that just because this snipe is on the ballot, it doesn’t mean we have to pass the Metropolitan government equivalent of the Third Amendment.

No rationale for pushing for this charter amendment, either substantively ... or procedurally, can be taken from a conservative political philosophy.

Rob Robinson:
Surely there is a better way to serve the public than preying upon people who already have uphill climbs ahead of them.

...preying upon people who already have uphill climbs...

Nathan Day Wilson:
My family and I lived outside the United States for a short period of time. The country where we lived does not have English as a primary language.

For us, going to the grocery store or sending a letter back home or helping our children meet and play with other children at the park or finding our way to church the first time were all challenges. Many times our saviors were people patient with our very limited abilities in their language and people who were willing to try their little bit of English to help us understand. Their generosity allowed us to survive.

And now a part of my country -- a part of the country that I, in fact, used to enjoy -- is not going to return the favor. I'm ashamed of those in Nashville who pushed this effort, and I hope and pray it is soundly defeated in November.

Many times our saviors were people patient with our very limited abilities in their language...

Letters to the editor

The Tennessean and Nashville City Paper have also published letters to the editor against the English charter change, including these:

Johnny Ellis:
[P]our money into primary education services that will teach all children to read and write in English and to love Tennessee.

It will be cheaper, easier and does not slap the face of your neighbors and future citizens.

...neighbors and future citizens.

Bill Wright:
I agree if someone chooses to live in a country and is not fluent in the language, they should make every reasonable effort to learn the language but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to be proficient in it from day one, or not provide any assistance to help them along the way.

I have to believe the people pushing these agendas have never traveled outside our own country and would have a different attitude if they “walked a mile in their shoes.”

...they should make every reasonable effort to learn the language but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to be proficient in it from day one...

Todd M. Liebergen:
[T]ake the time and money that you’d like to use for the petition campaign and actually help those wanting to learn English. Encourage all those that mention it to you to also step forward with their time and/or money.

In many cases, it’s not the motivation to learn English that is lacking, it’s the resources of having classes available at the times the learners need (some people actually work), at the levels that the learners need (some know no English and others know some and others are mostly fluent), in the format the learners need (some need individual tutoring while others can use a lecture hall size class).

Take the time and money ... and actually help those wanting to learn English

Brent Andrews:
It is only good service and good manners to speak to people in their own language when possible.

...good service and good manners...

Photo by Josh Hunter. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nashville English Language Learning program makes adjustments, gets tips from Memphis

While still praised as "one of the best ELL programs in the state and in the nation" by Tennessee Department of Education official Connie Smith, Nashville's English Language Learner program is undergoing changes and getting tips from Memphis, according to this article in the Nashville City Paper (originally published in June) and this article in Monday's Memphis Commercial Appeal.

As previously reported in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook, Nashville schools' English learner programs have a track record of success (story here). Both ESL and ELL classes are credited with improving overall classroom concentration in Nashville, because students who have language difficulties are no longer asking friends to interpret for them in class.

ESL and ELL teaching require special teaching methods but not necessarily communication in the students' native languages.

Less busing

From the Nashville City Paper:
Metro Nashville Public Schools is in the process of a shift from emphasizing placement of students at English Language Learner (ELL) Centers to kids into ELL Program Schools closer to home.

This [2008-2009] school year, because of the changes, about 600 kids will receive ELL services in their regularly zoned schools. Kids being transported to ELL Centers often have to ride buses up to one hour each way, according to LaWanna Shelton, executive director of ELL for MNPS.
ELL Centers and Program Schools are identical in terms of the academic resources provided, Shelton said. The only difference is that kids enroll in Program Schools if they are regularly zoned to attend there, whereas participants at ELL Centers may be bused from other areas.
MNPS parent Cesar Muedas, former chair of Hispanic parent organization COPLA, said parents in Hispanic communities are divided as to whether they would prefer their children to be educated in ELL or in general education classes, due in part to inconsistencies between schools.
For Metro’s ELL programs, the state is leaving Shelton in charge — and giving her a promotion. The state plan gives Shelton the title of executive director, rather than coordinator, and elevates the entire ELL office to the same level as those for special education and gifted education.

DOE accountability chief Connie Smith said last week that Shelton does “a beautiful job.”

“I think it’s one of the best ELL programs in the state and in the nation,” Smith said last week while updating on the reorganization to members of Mayor Karl Dean’s Advisory Council on Special Education.

Language learners called "primary reason" Nashville misses NCLB benchmarks, Memphis program is "exceptional"

From the Commercial Appeal:
The education budget hearings were the focus of some good news for Memphis City Schools. The system was held up by the governor and education officials as a model for how to effectively teach non-English speakers. Failures by English language learners, or ELL, to achieve federally mandated benchmarks are the primary reason why the Metro Nashville Public Schools are in their second year of oversight by the state.

"Memphis City Schools has an exceptional ELL program," Asst. State Education Commissioner Connie Smith said. "We've taken Nashville school officials down there, and to Shelby County Schools too, to show them how they are doing it."

Poor, disabled and Hispanics in general are also missing benchmarks

Another Nashville City Paper article from July 2008 details a few areas in which Nashville missed its No Child Left Behind benchmarks:
• Proficiency in language arts for students with limited English proficiency, grades kindergarten through eight;
• Proficiency in math for three groups of high school students: economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency;
• Proficiency in language arts for four groups of high school students: economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, and Hispanics.
Photo by Derek Baird. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winner of Conexion Americas' inaugural young writer essay contest: Dulce Torres

"Dreams of Home in Both Places"

Renata Soto comments on "disappointing truth" revealed in top essay

Conexión Américas announced that Nashville student Dulce Torres has won that organization's inaugural essay contest for young Latino writers.

With the theme "My Hispanic Roots, My American Dream," the contest was one of several activities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and was geared toward Latino high school students who live in Middle Tennessee.

Ms. Torres will receive a personal computer and a $100 savings bond. The runner-up finalists, Alejandra Mata and Lupita Garcia, will also be recognized with gift certificates.

The Tennessean published photos of the winners and all three essays here.

The full text of Torres' winning essay, "Dreams of Home in Both Places," is below, followed by a Q&A with Conexion Americas' executive director Renata Soto about the following comment in Torres' essay: "I know I have different goals from other Hispanics, like finishing high school and going to college..."

Dreams of Home in Both Places

By Dulce Torres

My name is Dulce Torres, but what many people don’t know is that my full name is Dulce Maria Torres Guzman. I come from a family of seven, and I am the oldest so I usually have to deal with four screaming “bundles of joy.”

Most of my brothers and sisters were not born in Mexico, but in America. And I guess that has given us a great advantage in helping us live here. But I’ve never forgotten my heritage. It is always with me, everywhere I go. And though I live in America, I’ve never let go of it. My parents have really helped in showing me where I came from. My mother never stopped speaking to me in Spanish when I was little, and she never stopped telling me stories of when she was a little girl in Mexico. She would tell me of simpler times when her ten brothers and sisters and she would play with whatever they could find outside. Imagination was one of the only tools they had back then, but with that, they could create whole worlds out there. Funny, my mother would usually tell me these stories when she would catch me watching TV instead of doing something else.

But people say that others learn things better by doing. So that’s what my parents did. From as far back as I can remember, my parents have taken me every summer to Mexico. I’ll never forget the feeling of knowing that when the final bell of the final day of school rang, that soon I would be in Mexico. When I would get home the frenzy of packing the suitcases (and practically the whole house), cleaning the house, fixing the car, and getting everything else ready would start almost immediately. My mom would get really nervous and angry, and make everyone else nervous and angry. But I didn’t mind this, and I didn’t even mind the three-day-long car rides going to Mexico. It was all worth it in the end. Just the thought of seeing Mexico again would keep us from bothering the living heck out of each other. We couldn’t make much noise or our daddy “might crash.” I believed him; he had done it before. On the third day, we were all exhausted but we knew that soon, we would be home.

And suddenly, stores would start to appear. Neverias, tortillerias, carnicerias, and then La Plaza, and then I knew: I was home. Screams were heard everywhere once we got out of the car. A blur of people came and started to hug my family and me. And then a short time passed before I could finally get inside the old, yellow house to see the wrinkled, gentle, and happy faces of two of the people I love the most. “Dulce que? Dulce Armargosa!” was always my grandfather’s favorite thing to say to me. He was the jokester in our family, the main line to the laughter that would fill the house once he started talking. “No le hagas caso a tu abuelito,” my grandmother would tell me. She usually disapproved of most of the things that would come out of my abuelito’s mouth because most of it was inappropriate.

Some of my fondest memories are of Mexico. My memories are of things I had been doing since I was little, and I had never gotten bored there. The Mexican food that would appear on my grandmother’s table, the nightly walks to the store to get the delicious candy that could only be found there, the delicious smell of the fresh tortillas as I carry them back to my grandmother were just a few of these memories.

Some of my memories are the ones I really hold close to. As I silently walked and made my way closer to the plaza, I would soon be circled by lights from the rides, the smells from the food, and the words and laughter of almost all the people in Degollado who would come to the exact same place every Sunday.

Maybe that is why I study so hard in school and try so hard to get good grades. I know I have different goals from other Hispanics, like finishing high school and going to college. I want to become a writer. I think I was always meant to be one. And I also want to change a few things. I know not many Mexicans, or Hispanics, like to read books, or even try to write them. But I love it. I love to create stories using only my imagination and I love to write about everything I see. I want to create books so that when people read them, they will be amazed that it was done by a Hispanic woman and then they will know that we can be successful and that we can do good things for this country and this world. I hope to be one of the first to start the path to get other Hispanics to follow, and to see that they don’t have to act that way to fit in. They can do whatever they put their minds to. That is my American Dream.

Q&A about "I know not many Mexicans, or Hispanics, like to read books, or even try to write them."

Before publishing "Dreams of Home in Both Places," I asked Conexion Americas' executive director Renata Soto about the sentence in the essay that says, "not many Mexicans, or Hispanics, like to read books, or even try to write them":
I wanted to ask you a question about the winning essay, especially this portion:
"I know I have different goals from other Hispanics, like finishing high school and going to college..."
If I saw anyone else saying that Hispanics' goals don't include finishing high school and going to college, I'd be shocked. So when the 1st place essay for Hispanic Heritage Month includes that sentiment, I'm dumbfounded.

What are your thoughts?
The disappointing truth is that many of the entries spoke to that issue. It reflects their experience. When for every Latino kid who graduates from high school they see another Latino kid drop out….you cannot dismiss their sense of the reality.

Another one of the students who participated in a video we co-produced about parent involvement in school told me during our interview about how his oldest sisters dropped out of high school and how he wanted a different outcome for him and others.

So while there may be a temptation to dismiss the essay's sentiment, to not 'send the wrong message,' it was an honest reflection from the author about the world around her.

This is an interesting dilemma we face, because we sometimes hear people repeat the myth that latinos don't value education, even though national polls say that latino parents rate education as one of the most important things for their children. So here at Conexion Americas we do talk a lot about correcting that myth. But when 50% or more of Latino kids do drop out, we know that problem is going to take more than appreciation for education from parents…hence our new Parents as Partners program.
Related stories in Education:

Book photo by Gep Pascual. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Boundary line photo by Richard Masoner. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Question mark photo by Leo Reynolds. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Miss Tennessee Latina pageant Saturday November 22

The Miss Tennessee Latina Pageant 2008-2009 will be held this Saturday November 22, at 7pm. Admission is $10.

Earlier this year, the reigning Miss Tennessee Latina 2007, Mariela Flores, won Best Heritage Dress at the national Miss Latin America competition in San Antonio.

The announcement of this Saturday's competition:
The Miss Latin America Organization invites you to Miss Tennessee Latina Pageant 2008-2009

Saturday November 22, 2008
7:00-10:00 PM

Salón de Fiestas EL SOL
1501 Gallatin, Pike North Madison TN 37115

Come and Support Hispanic Beauty in Tennessee

"We recognize the personal and Cultural attributes of young women of Hispanic heritage in the US"

for info call: (615) 506 1279



Miss Princesa Latina:
*Gabriela Espinosa
*Michelle A.Gonzalez
*Noehly Ramirez
*Arlette Contreras
*Shanida Mia Hatcher
*Elizabeth Lara

Miss Teen TN Latina:
*Michelle Muñoz BOLIVIA
*Alexia Medina MEXICO
*Maria Guerra CUBA
*Daisy Jimenez MEXICO

Miss TN Latina:
*Lilibeth Leon MEXICO
*Deborah Posada NICARAGUA
*Diana Penate CUBA
*Laura Gruber VENEZUELA
*Anay Padron CUBA
Photo of Mariela Flores, in her Best Heritage Dress at the national Miss Latin America competition, courtesy of Miss Tennessee Latina.
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