Friday, May 29, 2009

Nashville's CEI joins national Reform Immigration for America effort; press conference June 1 at Loews

The announcement from the Coalition for Education about Immigration:

Monday, June 1
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel
11:30 - 12:30
Mezzanine Level

CEI Members ...

At this morning's CEI meeting we decided to become a partner in a national effort called Reform Immigration for America. The mission of this national coalition is very similar to ours ... to educate the public on immigration issues and support comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system.

As you likely know already, President Obama is moving forward with addressing how to repair our immigration system through reform. To this end he is scheduled to begin conversations with Congress in the week ahead. Members organizations of this newly formed national coalition are simultaneously holding news conferences around the country on Monday to emphasize the need for reform and support the President's efforts. We decided this morning that we would do the same.

I know that this is short notice ... but am hoping that some of you will be able to join us on Monday at Loews. We have lined up several speakers who will give short addresses from different perspectives ... business, labor, religious, public policy, etc. The conference will be centered around CEI's statement of principles for reform that we collaboratively developed and adopted a couple of years ago and have honed since. We are hoping to have a large enough presence of members to demonstrate our commitment as well as have CEI members available to talk to guests and press who join us. Given the importance of this, whether or not you have been at a recent meeting of CEI, I am hoping you will give strong consideration to joining us on Monday. Hope to see you then.
CEI's principles for reform can be found on its web site:
CEI supports:

The development of opportunities to allow hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status after satisfying reasonable criteria, and over time, pursue and option to become lawful permanent residents, and eventually, United States citizens, if they choose to do so.
Reforms in our family-based immigration system that honor humanitarian and American family values and significantly reduce waiting times for reuniting families in the United States, something that can take years, even decades under the current process.
The development of legal avenues for new immigrant workers and their families who wish to migrate to the United States as well as the implementation of a safe, legal, and orderly process in which the rights of all workers are fully protected.

Effective border protection policies that are consistent with American humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect. These policies will allow for critical and legitimate tasks of identifying and preventing entry into the United States by terrorists and dangerous criminals, implementing immigration policy, and maintaining the integrity of national borders.
The complete principles adopted by the Reform Immigration for America campaign are here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fox and NYT agree: calling Sotomayor's Puerto Rican parents "immigrants" was a mistake

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is the daughter of U.S. citizens

Mabel Arroyo and Blue Collar Muse weigh in

Now here's something you don't see every day: both the New York Times and Fox News make the same mistake and subsequently agree that it's a mistake, namely, that they erroneously called Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor the daughter of Puerto Rican "immigrants" (see the Times' correction at the bottom of this article, and see Fox News' original and corrected paragraph about her parents here and here). Since Puerto Ricans have been U.S. nationals since 1898 and U.S. citizens since 1917, and since "immigrate" means moving from one country to another, the term "immigrant" does not apply to Puerto Ricans.

At least twice in recent memory, Tennesseans have made the news doing this same thing - discounting the American-ness of Puerto Ricans. In 2006, a few Lewisburg, Tennessee residents drew nationwide scorn (see one example here) when they questioned the U.S. citizenship of their new librarian Nely Rivera, the New Jersey-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents. In 2003, a clerk at a Murfreesboro Road driver service center confiscated the documents of license renewal applicant Damarys Rodriguez Rivera, in part on the erroneous belief that Puerto Rico was not part of the United States.

When I heard Yale magna cum laude grad Ari Shapiro call Sotomayor's parents "Puerto Rican immigrants" on Tuesday's Morning Edition on NPR, I wondered whether Shapiro had fact-checked and actually discovered some justification for calling Sotomayor's Puerto Rican parents immigrants. I didn't know my Puerto Rican history offhand; I just knew that Puerto Rican citizens are currently U.S. citizens. Maybe the timing was such that Sotomayor's parents could possibly be Puerto Ricans but not U.S. citizens? No, the U.S. status of all Puerto Ricans goes back two turns of centuries, so that couldn't be it.

On what basis would one rightly say that Puerto Ricans are immigrants? Well, if you believe in the theory that the person being identified is the best authority on that person's identity, Liza of Culture Kitchen would say that both she and Sotomayor* call Puerto Ricans immigrants, and that there is a separateness of Puerto Ricans among Americans that justifies the distinction.

I decided to turn to Nashville attorney Mabel Arroyo and Nashville blogger Blue Collar Muse for their thoughts, since Arroyo is a native of Puerto Rico and a member of both the Nashville and Puerto Rico Bar Associations, and BCM's paternal grandfather was a professor at the University of Puerto Rico. Both agreed that Puerto Ricans are not immigrants.

If you define immigration as the movement of people to a country where they were not born in order to settle there (which I think is the correct definition in the Sotomayor context) the answer is no. Puerto Rican are U.S. citizens, Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S., so when a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico moves to the mainland he/she is not immigrating. A lot of people don't know that U.S. immigration law does not apply to U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico.
I would not classify any Puerto Rican as an immigrant. They are American citizens by birth. They are Puerto Ricans. Just like Tennesseans are American citizens by birth. If a Tennessean moves to Kentucky, they are not an immigrant. They are an American citizen moving from one state to another. While Puerto Rico is not a state, it can fairly be said to be analogous to DC. If someone moves from Washington D.C. to New York would you also say they were immigrants? Unlikely. If you would, you should likely be prepared for some push back.
Hey, it's not me calling Puerto Ricans immigrants. It's the New York Times, Fox News and just about everyone else, at least until they catch themselves and issue a correction (speaking of which, Lewisburg resident Nely Rivera was backed up by her boss and the mayor, and Nashvillian Damarys Rivera was eventually given her license and her seized documents).

Then again, Liza of Culture Kitchen says it's OK. And maybe even Sotomayor herself.

Bonus trivia question: which sitting Supreme Court justice said the following:
[W]hen a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position…

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.
Hat tip to Mizanur Rahman for his Houston Chronicle blog post on this same subject

*Note to Liza: is this the Sotomayor comment you're referring to: "Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came..."

Photo by Ulises Jorge Bidó. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Revealing diversity, honoring servicemen and women

Iraqi Freedom veteran Duckworth says she owes life to diverse crew

"Putting in a new headstone was the least I could do for him because he served our country and gave me freedom"

"National Guard Soldier, Black Hawk pilot and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth commemorated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month last Monday in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of one arm on a combat mission in Iraq in 2004. The Army News Service reported that Duckworth recalled
how she wouldn't be alive today had it not been for her helicopter crew made up of an Asian American, a Black American, a Caucasian American and a Hispanic American.

"Just by the nature of who we were, our diversity sends a message around the world of what a great country this is," she said. "A country of opportunity, of hope, of freedom and of the ability to be anything you want to be regardless of race or ancestry. Of that I'm proud."

Eagle Scout installs headstone for Hispanic veteran, hundreds of others

Over the course of five years, Utah Eagle Scout Brad Jencks has mobilized community volunteers and spent 2,790 hours rehabilitating a local cemetery. The people buried in the rural 8-acre site, including veterans, are from 30 countries and 38 states. From yesterday's story in the Deseret News:
Broken headstones. No headstones. Forgotten, unmarked graves. A cemetery rich with ethnic history — a Hispanic section, Yugoslavian section, a Japanese headstone, and all those babies buried there.

Five years later, the cemetery has a paved road and Jencks and his team have identified more than 1,000 previously unmarked graves. He's authored a 1,500-page book documenting each grave site and set up a virtual tour of the cemetery with GPS locations for every known grave.

He's secured new markers for more than a dozen veterans from six wars, had a granite memorial installed and has a "wall of honor" at the entrance of the cemetery showing known burials.


The brother of one Bingham City Cemetery occupant was blunt with Jencks one day.

"(He) asked me why a white boy would care about his Hispanic brother. It about floored me."

Jencks had helped install the headstone he received from the Veterans Administration to place at the World War II veteran's grave site.

"Putting in a new headstone was the least I could do for him because he served our country and gave me freedom."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Danny Salazar performs at Flatrock Festival Saturday

Danny Salazar at Flatrock Festival posterFrom Danny Salazar:
Hope things are going well. This Saturday I'll be with the full band @ Coleman Park. It's the second annual Flatrock Festival from 11am to 7pm. We'll be going on at 2pm, so please come out and show your support! Fun for the whole family rain or shine! Attached is the poster. Hasta luego.

Danny Salazar

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NPT original documentary Next Door Neighbors: Hablamos Español premieres May 29

Third installment in series explores Nashville’s growing Latin American populations

“The big difference with this documentary and previous ones in our series is that the experience of Latin American immigrants in Nashville is extremely diverse"

"Hard-working, loving people who would go out of their way to help each other"

From Nashville Public Television:
For as long as America has existed, people have been drawn here as a place of rebirth, where they can exchange hard work for a new life, prosperity and hope. Traditionally, immigrants have relocated to large cities, with an abundance of jobs and a long history of immigration. But in the last few decades, a shifting economy has meant smaller, mid-sized cities like Nashville have seen unprecedented growth in their foreign-born populations.

In Nashville, the Latin American, or Hispanic, community has grown 800% in the last 15 years. NPT offers viewers a chance to see the city through this community’s eyes with NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS: Hablamos Español, premiering on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. on NPT-Channel 8. The documentary is the third installment in NPT’s four-part NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS series.

“The big difference with this documentary and previous ones in our series,” said producer Will Pedigo, “is that the experience of Latin American immigrants in Nashville is extremely diverse, coming from many countries, for different reasons and through different paths. What they found in Nashville in the late nineties was a welcoming city, with ample jobs associated with the commercial and residential boom and in Nashville’s growing service economy.”

“Before I came here, I didn't think of myself as anything but just myself, but then you get here, and all of a sudden you're thrown together with a bunch of people that you share some things with,” says Fabian Bedne in the documentary. “So, I never thought of myself as a Hispanic before I came to the U.S. I thought of myself as Latin American (or) South American.”

“When you are such a complex culture and continent like we are in Latin America,” adds Bedne, “it's hard for people to understand. What ends up happening is they need to put you in a box and that box has the label Hispanic or Latino.”

In addition to exploring the diversity of Nashville Latin American populations, NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS: Hablamos Español briefly summarizes the history of Hispanic immigration, first to the United States, and then to Nashville, especially in the mid-1990s, when the city’s central location provided a gateway to the commercial growth in the southeast.

As Hispanic immigrants arrived and started working, they needed housing and places to spend their money. Much money was sent to families struggling back home. By the early 2000s, the southeast area of Nashville began to mirror the changing populations of the city with new businesses owned, operated and catering to the needs of the new populations. Churches such as Iglesia De Dios Hispana were established and Spanish-language radio stations popped up on the dial.

For the most part, new Latin Americans felt welcomed to the city. That changed after September 11, 2001, when a focus on national security led Americans to take a closer look at immigration, visa and border-crossing policies.

In a vacuum of federal legislation, state and local law created a patchwork of legislation to deal locally with a federal issue. Many in the city’s Hispanic community found themselves in the middle of a heated political debate; the objects of scorn and negative caricature. The situation became more tenuous in 2007 with Nashville's participation in the 287(g) federal program, which extended immigration enforcement capabilities to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department. The implementation of 287 (g) in Nashville has divided both natives and the immigrant community.

“I started noticing the change after September 11, 2001,” says David Morales. “People became very wary, people got scared. You noticed …it was palpable. From the moment the attacks occurred, the mood in the country changed and it just started getting worse and worse progressively.”

“I would say four or five years ago, the pressure of having to have…legal status was not as big as it is now,” says Marlen Perez. “So you have these families that have children that were born here (together) with children that do not have legal status, and you have parents from other generations that were able to fix their status. Our system has created different social classes even in the same family, because some people in the family can drive (and others can not). That creates conflicts. I am legal and you are not. I can do things that you cannot do, even if we are from the same background. We are from the same ethnicity. We speak the same language. We have the same job (but) we are different.”

The unresolved conflicts of immigration are felt in Nashville as they are in other cities and states across the country. While immigration issues have divided some in the Hispanic community, most agree that while cities and states wrestle with questions related to immigration and legal status, a solution ultimately must be made on the federal level.

“Year after year…we looked the other way and then all of a sudden people went…’what happened, where did all these people come from’,” adds Bedne. “So we ended up having huge problems, and every time we have tried to solve them at the federal level, people on both sides of the aisle don’t like it enough.”

“I think it’s a very scary time” says Raul Lopez. “In a sense, “I think we need to bridge (the Hispanic immigrants and native Nashville communities) because both communities think alike. Hispanic culture and Southern culture are very similar; that’s a funny thing about it. It’s hard-working, loving people who would go out of their way to help each other.”

The NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS series includes in-depth web content at, public forums and panel discussions after each of the four programs.

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

About Nashville Public Television

Nashville Public Television is available free and over the air to nearly 2.2 million people throughout the Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky viewing area, and is watched by more than 600,000 households every week. The mission of NPT is to provide, through the power of traditional television and interactive telecommunications, high quality educational, cultural and civic experiences that address issues and concerns of the people of the Nashville region, and which thereby help improve the lives of those we serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FCC asks if Hispanic radio audiences are undercounted

Monitoring airwaves with a "portable people meter," Arbitron's methodology questioned

Are there more Hispanic country music fans out there than previously thought?

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether minority radio listeners are undercounted by the tracking firm Arbitron, according to this story in the Washington Post.

The investigation centers around the use of a new tracking system employed by Arbitron (and covered by Wired in 2007), which requires the listener being tracked to wear a device that constantly monitors the airwaves:
Arbitron has recently replaced its diary-based rating system in certain markets with the PPM [portable people meter] system. According to Arbitron, the PPM is a mobile-phone-sized device that consumers wear throughout the day. The PPM detects inaudible identification codes that are embedded in the audio of certain programming to which the consumer is exposed. An encoder at the programming or distribution source inserts the inaudible identification codes. In addition, a station monitor is installed at the programming source to ensure audio content is encoded properly. At the end of each day, each survey participant places the PPM device in a base station to recharge the battery and to send collected codes to a household collection device known as a “hub.” The household hub collects the codes from all the base stations in the survey household and transmits them to Arbitron.
The concerns of the coalition, now made more formal by the FCC, are that Arbitron uses the PPMs in a way that underrepresents minorities, with the consequence that "undercounting could particularly affect the ratings of local, urban-formatted radio stations that broadcast programming of interest to African-American and Hispanic audiences."

Arbitron's response is that "samples effectively represent Blacks and Hispanics in the 18-34 age group, and across other factors such as geographic location and language preferences." Arbitron published this "Hispanic Radio Today" report in 2008.

Read the FCC's official Notice of Inquiry here.

From the comments of FCC officials at, it appears the investigation does not presume that the concerns raised are in fact correct, but are serious enough to flesh out until they are confirmed or rebutted.

Nashville's country music industry has been trying to attract Hispanic audiences to country music (see this story for background, or see the Country Music page on this site). The FCC investigation could reveal that the numbers of Hispanic listeners have been undercounted.

Here are the reasons why minority radio representatives think the Auditron PPM methods are flawed:
[O]nly five to six percent of the PPM sample is comprised of cell-phone-only households, while a significant and growing percentage of young adults and Hispanics and African-Americans live in cell-phone-only households.8 PPMC asserts that 19.3 percent of Hispanic households and 18.3 percent of African-American households are cell-phone-only, whereas 12.9 percent of non-Hispanic white households are cell-phone-only.9 Among other things, PPMC also complains that: (1) PPM has a 66 percent smaller sample size than the diary, often making it impossible to target age or gender subsets of minority audiences because standard industry metrics require at least 30 respondents in a cell to run ratings data; (2) PPM samples are not built using street addresses, and therefore fail to ensure statistically representative inclusion of cell-phone-only households; (3) young minorities are reluctant to carry visible PPMs; (4) Hispanic PPM recruitment methods skew toward English-dominant persons because potential panelists are identified by origin rather than by language; (5) PPM response and compliance rates fall below industry norms; (6) PPMs record exposure to radio signals, but they do not capture listener loyalty, which is high among minorities; (7) PPM reports provide less granular data in terms of geography; (8) PPM reports do not contain income data, country of origin data, or data that accounts sufficiently for language preferences;and (9) PPM panelists may be corrupted more easily by radio personnel because the PPM device often visibly identifies them and their expected participation is two years instead of the usual one-week participation in the diary system.
Photo by Fabrizio Sciami. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Local Colombian artists Jorge Yances and Jairo Prado team with Glendale's elementary students

The Tennessean reports here that Glendale Spanish Immersion Elementary School recently brought some of their students together to work with local Colombia-born artists Jorge Yances and Jairo Prado. The first grade class made a collage of South America with Yances, and the second grade class worked with wood sculptures with Prado.

Read the entire article and see the first grade/Yances collage here.

Jairo Prado

Prado, who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia in 1984, has bios at the web sites of, the Nashville Airport, and the Metro Arts Commission. He was described by the Nashville City Paper as an "artistic heavyweight" in 2001.

Jorge Yances

Yances immigrated to Nashville with his family when he was 13 and has a bio at the web site of the Metro Arts Commission here. He was profiled by the Nashville City Paper here in 2006. According to that profile, "[t]he Brentwood resident has sold more than 100,000 of his original works, received a commission from Walt Disney World, swept award shows by capturing first place awards and headlined major art shows in Las Vegas and Washington D.C." Yances and his wife Pilar Arrieta are the former owners of the Palette Gallery and Café in Hillsboro Village.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Faith and basketball: Mack not afraid to throw his elbows around

"I’m sure I will test their faith"

Local Hispanic writer Mack, of Coyote Chronicles, has written twice recently about the intersection of religion and churchgoing. One of the columns uses basketball to offer a peek into Mack's past while at the same time explaining why/how he recently visited a church, and the other column discusses the social side effects of not attending church in the South.

In both posts, he indicates that his family is prone to test others' faith:
One day, when I was 7 or 8, a neighbor kid invited me to the Boys Christian League. I spent the remainder of my youth boarding a bus every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to attend Bible study, practice of some sport, then a game to cap off the week. I went to their Summer camps. Equal emphasis was placed on Worship and sport fundamentals. The worship part didn’t stick. But I can still field a hot grounder, shoot a freethrow, and God have mercy on the receiver coming across the middle once I have the angle.

But I actually enjoyed the Bible study. The Counselors told stories, and they were entertaining, sort of an early version of Veggie Tales, which, btw, I really love. Once puberty hit, spending three days a week in all male pursuits didn’t have the same draw, for some reason. So, eventually, I stopped going. I still played ball, and still do. But there is something to be said for fellowship. Before moving to Nashville, I used to play basketball with a group of guys that all attended the same Catholic church. The games were fast and physical, these guys had some game, and I really miss the adrenaline rush I felt when the guys and I were in synch, five guys all on the same wave-length. It really is special to not have to look to throw a pass…you just know your guy is there. After working up a good sweat, we would stand around and talk about life, soup to nuts, as The Primary Wife would say.

I really miss that. So, I decided that the time may be right for me to fill a void in my life by playing hoops again, and, perhaps fulfill a desire to talk with people of faith and offer a different perspective on things like politics and even Faith itself. The thing is, I’m pretty rough around the edges. I’m quick to become combative. I punctuate with cursewords. I’ve been known to take a drink. I have a sharp tongue and I can be stubborn on seemingly inconsequential matters. I’m sure I will test their faith…
We don’t attend church, which has actually caused my children some grief from their peers at school. One boy’s parents will not allow him to come over, though Nog is welcome at their home. The reason they gave is that we are not Christians. I wondered how they know that? Supermousey recently had a blow-up with one of her girlfriends, who later admitted that she never had a friend that challenged her beliefs before. I found that refreshingly honest at least.

It's a bit of a trick to live and work here and to raise a family outside of any church-based social structure. It may be years before we know if we pulled it off….
Read the original columns in their entirety here and here.

Photo by Robert Terrell. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Welcome: Portraits of America (Feel Good Friday)

The above video "Welcome: Portraits of America" plays at the Houston airport's international port of entry, where they check your passport and visa. I had the privilege of watching it upon my return from some trips to Latin America last year. So much optimism, so much beauty, such an inspiring picture of an America that welcomes you.

For the full impact, watch the whole thing. If you are interested in more, watch the making-of video. At the end of this post, I've linked to and excerpted from the press release from the video's debut in 2007.

(Consistent with a "Feel Good Friday" post, let's not dwell on the frustrations of post-9/11 travel. Penn & Teller do have an interesting take, though.)

From the 2007 press release announcing "Welcome: Portraits of America":
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in partnership with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of State, recently premiered “Welcome: Portraits of America,” a multi-media initiative to welcome international visitors to the United States. The donation from Disney included a seven-minute film and hundreds of still images, featuring American people from all regions and walks of life.

Disney commissioned the project as part of the Rice-Chertoff Initiative that seeks to secure America’s borders while welcoming legitimate visitors to the United States.

Customs and Border Protection is working with the State Department, federal partners and major airports to create standards that ensure passengers entering the United States experience a process that is welcoming, understandable, respectful, time-efficient and less stressful.


Disney’s gracious donation of the multimedia “Portraits of America” is a leap forward in depicting images of America that will welcome arriving visitors and resonate deeply with citizens returning to their nation while creating a warm welcome to visitors. It is a special gift to these travelers that Disney’s images will be featured in International Arrivals areas, U.S. embassies, and other opportunities to welcome visitors to our nation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to encourage legitimate travel, and to serve as a welcoming face to those who visit.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Longing to return to the island, Weir sees reconnection in revised Cuba travel rules

Guardalavaca, Cuba, 1996

"Cuba is a place you have to experience with all five senses"

"The blue was breathtaking, the sand was powder"

"My Tia said to hell with the politics"

Local Cuban-American blogger and businesswoman Carrie Ferguson Weir (of Bilingual in the Boonies, Los Pollitos Dicen, and ChiChi and Flaco) recently wrote that she has decided to take advantage of the newly relaxed rules about travel to Cuba. On May 5, Weir published this remembrance of a previous visit, and a favorite spot:
I know it is Cinco de Mayo, and I really should be writing something about getting sauced on margaritas and taco truck asadas, but I heard Jim Acosta on CNN this morning. I cried and was inspired.

Acosta is a CNN correspondent. He's Cuban-American, son of a man who left Cuba in 1962 at the age of 12. This was Acosta's first trip to Cuba.

I have no public opinion on the angles of his stories, or of the criticism he may receive for not painting a different, or more complete, picture of the island. (Read the comments on his page). What struck me as I listened to him talk about meeting a distant relative for the first time was how fortunate I am to have traveled there. I want Cuban kids of my generation to see Cuba for themselves -- if they want to. It is why I got all teary despite the fact I am not PMS-ing.

My journeys to Cuba answered a lot of questions for me, about my identity, about my spirit, about the things that move and inspire me. And, it answered questions about my family, their past, their longing, their hope, their passions. It was as if an object blocking the whole picture was removed.

My grandfather used to pick me up from school and he would tell great stories about Cuba from behind the wheel of his little, white Maverick. He told me the fruit was sweeter and the sky was bluer. It turned out to be true.

I have walked the same streets my mother walked as a child. I saw her old school, her old friends. I saw where members of my family are buried. I spent time with the family my father has seen but three times in the last 48 years. I laughed and cried with them. (Six of them will immigrate to the U.S. this spring and next winter.)

My generation of American-born cubanitos has been raised on longing and without a physical connection to the birthplace of our parents. Sad because Cuba is a place you have to experience with all five senses.

The picture above was taken in 1996 at Guardalavaca, near my mom's hometown of Banes. It is without a doubt the most glorious stretch of sand and water I ever have seen. The blue was breathtaking, the sand was powder and it was quiet and serene.

The name means "Guard the Cow'' or "Hide the Cow'' and there are all kinds of tales about its origin -- that it is what the natives would yell out when pirates came ashore, or that it was a pass code for the mambises who used to graze animals there.

During the 1996 trip, my husband and I were in Cuba to report on Cuban athletes who were participating in the Olympic games that year. It took us about three hours, over countless potholes, past wide open fields, bohios and ox carts, to get there from Havana. My mom had told me not to miss it.

I am grateful I didn't.

Now that the American government has changed the travel rules and is allowing Cuban-Americans to visit relatives as often as they wish, my aunt recently told my mom she has decided to make a trip to Cuba soon. My Tia said to hell with the politics -- some Cuban-Americans are against this change -- she wants to take "un chapuson" (a dip) in the waters of Guardalavaca once more.

So do I.
Photo and text reprinted with permission of Carrie Ferguson Weir.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Question about Hispanic Nashville Notebook's age-ranking leads to impressively endorsed The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, by David Dark

Almost 6 or barely 10, depending on how you look at it

I'm going on six years of blogging at the Hispanic Nashville Notebook, but this isn't the oldest blog in Nashville. A quick newspaper search reminded me of Busy Mom Blog and The Homeless Guy, who started blogging in Nashville before October 2003, when this site went live.

In April 1999, I started keeping the physical Hispanic Nashville Notebook - printed copies of various stories in a ringed binder. So it's been 10 years of the Notebook if you look at it that way. Maybe I should pull out some of those old stories and print excerpts here - perhaps starting with the stories on the formation of the two Hispanic chambers.

When I hopped over to The Homeless Guy's blog for this story, I noticed he recently linked to a new book by a mutual friend of ours and fellow Nashvillian, David Dark. The Sacredness of Questioning Everything has some heavy-hitter evangelical endorsements, from the likes of Eugene Peterson and Brian McLaren:
David Dark is my favorite critic of the people’s culture of America and the Christian faith. He brings a deep sense of reverence to every book he reads, every song he hears, every movie he sees, but it is a discerning reverence—attentive to truth and Jesus wherever he comes on them. He is also a reliable lie detector. And not a dull sentence in the book. — Eugene Peterson, professor emeritus of spiritual theology, translator of The Message

David Dark is one of our wisest authors, and I plan to read everything he writes. The Sacredness of Questioning Everything will comfort questioners, doubters, and skeptics with assurance that their questions can be faithful, and it will challenge the complacent with an ethical summons to wonder. It invites everything to give life—and faith—a second thought, and did I mention that it’s beautifully written? — Brian McLaren, Author, Everything Must Change
For you audiobook readers, the Homeless Guy points to a free audio download of The Sacredness of Questioning Everything.

Video by David Goehring. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mexican-Americans honored by Tennessee Republican Party on Cinco de Mayo

"A key ingredient to our nation’s greatness is the contribution of the Mexican American community"

From (hat tip: Post Politics):
The Tennessee Republican Party joins Mexican Americans today in celebrating their heritage on Cinco de Mayo.

“A key ingredient to our nation’s greatness is the contribution of the Mexican American community. Our shared values of family, freedom to pursue opportunity and observance of our faith are the cornerstones of Hispanic citizens and all ethnicities,” noted Robin Smith, Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. “Today, we reaffirm the commitment of our Republican Party to the policies that work to provide jobs, educational opportunity, access to health care, the ownership of private property and all others that emphasize personal achievement, not government interference or entitlement.”

Tennessee enjoys the leadership of the TN Republican National Hispanic Assembly that continues to grow and represent key issues. The organization’s beliefs are clearly stated at their website,

Raul Lopez, Chairman of the TN Republican National Hispanic Assembly, declared, “We have all come to the greatest country in the world for the opportunity to worship without government restriction; for our families to pursue happiness without government bondage and domination; and to express ourselves freely without fear. We can’t take these blessings for granted and must fight as our forefathers to keep our citizens free.

Juan Borges, Vice Chairman of the TNRNHA, encourages interested citizens to get involved at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo arrives; Nashville celebrates

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Brush up on why this is even a holiday, and celebrate with your fellow Nashvillians.

There's a list of events below, and another list of events on Stay safe - last year, according to this story in the Tennessean, charges of drunken driving ended the celebrations early for two dozen locals.

Events starting today:

May 5: Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Cinco de Mayo Lunch and Speed Networking Event at The Bound'ry

It's that Time Again!!!!
Come Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with us!

The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Reliant Bank

Invite you to the
Cinco de Mayo Lunch and
Speed Networking Event

Tuesday, May 5th
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
@ The Bound'ry
911 20th Ave South
Tel: (615) 321-3043

Valet Parking is Complimentary.

R.S.V.P. by May 2nd

Members Click here

Non-Members Click here
($15.00 per person for non-members)

May 5: Nashville Spanish Language Meetup Group at La Hacienda

¡¡Cinco de Mayo at La Hacienda!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 6:00 PM

La Hacienda
3670 Bell Road
Nashville TN 37214

Music outside 5-10 pm
$10 fee includes a shirt and a drink
Inside - no fee
They will be cooking outside and inside.
You can wait outside and listen to music while waiting on an inside table.

Please RSVP because there will be no room to move extra tables over this time!
Nos vemos ahí!

May 5: Cinco de Mayo con Conexion Americas at Limelight Nightclub

Cinco de Mayo

201 Woodland Street
Tuesday, May 5 ♦ Martes 5 de mayo
6 pm

Click here
to reserve your ticket. Haz click aquí para reservar tu boleto.

CINCO things to remember! ♦ CINCO detalles qué recordar!

Latin party with DJ and live music to benefit Conexión Américas
Fiesta latina con DJ y música en vivo en beneficio de Conexión Américas

Minimum $12 cover/donation
$12 de entrada/donación mínima

Pay at the door with cash or check
Paga en la puerta el día del evento con efectivo o cheque

Food and drinks not included in cover charge
Comida y bebidas no se incluyen en el precio de la entrada

Please let us know you are coming!
Por favor déjanos saber si vienes!

Click here to reserve your ticket. Haz click aquí para reservar tu boleto.

May 9: Fiesta Belmont at Belmont University

Fiesta Belmont:
Nashville's Latin Music Street Fair:
A Celebration of Food, Music & Culture
Una Celebración de Música y Comida
Saturday May 9, 2009--12PM-7PM
Location: Center of Belmont University Campus--17th Ave South & Wedgewood Blvd.

Música en vivo & Mas de 30 exhibiciones de comida latina & Danza folklórica
Live music & Over 30 Latin Food Vendors & Performers- Folkloric Dance Exhibitions

Bigger and Better this year. More events!
Kid's Inflatables- Face Painting-Pinatas

Sponsored and presented by Belmont University

Top photo by Sharyn Morrow. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Irish Confederate soldiers were more integrated because the South had been more welcoming (or at least less hostile)

"The Irish green shall again be seen"
from Song of the Rebel Irish, in a deleted scene from Gods and Generals

My daughter and I drove over to Stones River National Battlefield this weekend, and we picked up a copy of Irish Confederates: The Civil War's Forgotten Soldiers by Phillip Thomas Tucker. Tucker says in the introduction that Irish Americans integrated better in the South than in the North because they encountered less negativity here:
Irish Confederates were in general longer-term residents of America than the Irish in the North. These Southerners of Irish descent, consequently, possessed a larger stake in the American dream, in part because they had encountered less anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudice and more opportunity in the agricultural South than had the Irish in the large northeastern cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In overall terms, the Irish of the South more successfully assimilated into mainstream southern life and society, whereas the Irish of the North, especially the recent immigrants, met with greater prejudice and hostility.
This sentiment - that the assimilation of immigrants depends on the host community - parallels nicely with this 2007 post by Aunt B. about what defines us all as Americans (which I found when I was looking for this 2005 story about her U.S. ancestors who spoke German for decades):
I come from rural America. And I have lived in little towns where church records were still kept in German or where grandmas still spoke Italian. I have lived near enough to Chicago to tell you that there are high schools in Chicago that have English, Spanish, Polish, and Greek signs that point you places. There are neighborhoods in Chicago where you might never hear English all day.

And it can be a little weird, to be in a country you know is ostensibly English-speaking and walk into stores and have to wait for a seven year old kid to come and translate your needs for you.

And I’ll even admit that it can be scary.

But it’s not the end of the world. It’s also exciting and vibrant. And, if you’ve ever been to Chicago on, say, St. Patrick’s Day or over the 4th, to see all these different folks come together to celebrate and enjoy each others’ company, it’s awe-inspiring.

It makes me proud to be an American, that we can be so different and yet all fit under the term “American.” Not because we’ve all assimilated; not because we all speak English; but because we’re all here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Immigrants without a May 1 event in Nashville?

Made in L.A.

May 1 is a day in which immigrants have mobilized themselves in the past few years, and 2009 is no exception, but Nashville seems to be taking a pass this year (see the lists here, here and here of May 1 events across the country, none of which is in Nashville).

The only thing I've seen from the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has been the following e-mail a few days ago, which includes instructions for getting May 1 updates from a national group:
* CALL: President Obama and thank him for moving immigration reform in 2009.
o For English call: 866-584-3962.
o Para Español: 866-583-2908.
* FAX: Senator Reid and Senator Pelosi to tell them to stand strong with President Obama and pass immigration reform in 2009. JUST CLICK THIS LINK:
* TEXT: Join the FIRM Mobile Action Network by texting Justice [Justicia for Spanish] to 69866 to get updates on May 1st actions and future action alerts to help us win immigration reform this year. [all standard text messaging fees apply]
As far as I can tell, the only campaign-level May 1 action item for Nashvillians would be to set up a screening of Made in L.A.:
Between April 15th and May 31st national organizations, grassroots groups, faith-based congregations and individuals across the country are coming together in a nationwide effort to share Emmy-winning Made in L.A. and put a human face on the issues of immigration, immigrant workers' rights, and supporting humane immigration reform. To learn more about the campaign, and see our short web-videos, visit our May Day Community Screening Campaign page!

Join the movement and start planning your own Made in L.A. event today!
Is there a Nashville May 1 event I'm missing? Does anyone know if there are any Made in L.A. screenings in the works for Nashville? Anyone want to put one together? Contact me here or comment below.
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