Friday, July 31, 2009

George Strait sings "El Rey" in Spanish on new album Twang

Gabe Garcia: "He grew up around a lot of Spanish speaking people and a lot of Spanish bands"

Pierce Greenberg writes at The 9513 that George Strait's new album Twang features a Spanish-language track, "El Rey," which means, "The King." Strait is popularly known as The King of Country.

The 9513 explores the history of "El Rey" and its songwriter Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and "the prevalence of Mexican culture in country music," citing country music historian Don Cusic:
The Mexican influence on country music extends from the clothing (colorful) to the music, via Texas. The image of the cowboy is strong in both–and George Strait is certainly part of that culture. The cattle culture, horses, saddles, lariats and all that is heavily influenced by Mexico.
The article also mentions Hispanic country musicians such as Freddy Fender, Rick Trevino, and Nashville Star runner-up Gabe Garcia. According to the story:
Garcia grew up 15 minutes from Strait’s hometown, in Pearsall, Texas, and knows the Hispanic influence is strong around those parts.

“He grew up around a lot of Spanish speaking people and a lot of Spanish bands,” said Garcia. “That’s part of being from South Texas. That’s the culture down there.”
The Straight cover of "El Rey" will be released with the full album Twang on August 11. There is a link to hear the entire song at the end of the article at The 9513.

There have been three Hispanic top finishers in the country music TV competition Nashville Star on USA/NBC: Gabe Garcia, Melanie Torres, and John Arthur Martinez. Julio Iglesias Jr. won the CMT show Gone Country. Read those stories, and learn about the country music industry's efforts to target the Hispanic audience, at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Latino News v. Tennessee Latino News

The Tennessean's Janell Ross has the story of new litigation in Nashville's Spanish-language newspaper industry.

Excerpts from the story:
A lawsuit filed July 21 in Davidson County Circuit Court by the Latino News accuses a former employee, Alfonso Nieto, of breach of contract, trademark infringement and theft of services in launching his competing Tennessee Latino News. Nieto declined Wednesday to comment on the suit because of a pending conciliation meeting.
Since 2000, at least 13 different Spanish, Portuguese and bilingual Spanish/English publications targeting the area's growing Latin American population have at one time been published or distributed in Nashville...
The full story is here.

Related stories from

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Manuel celebrates birthday, reflects on a changing Nashville

Daughter Morelia launches Rhinestone Cure diabetes foundation

Manuel, Nashville's tailor to the stars, was recently featured in two separate online multimedia pieces by Tennessean reporters.

The first is a Metromix slideshow of his recent birthday party, described by Heather Byrd like this:
The king of country couture, Manuel, celebrated his 70-somethingth birthday at his mountain cabin over the weekend, and hundreds of friends and loved ones came out to join the party.

And what better way to celebrate than with a day full of fabulous food and music? The impressive roster of musicians included Danny Salazar, Suzette Renee from Neon Angels, the Flick Peterson Trio, Brooks Brothers, Ben Cyluss, Love Life, Rosie Flores, Rockin’ Bones, Tullie Brae and The Medicine Man Revenue, Max Onion, R.B. Stone, Jimmy Charles, Corazon Musica, Miss Melba Toast, Music City Burlesque, The Naughty School Girls and many more.

Partiers came from as far away as London and Mexico to attend this party. After all, no one knows quite how to throw a fiesta better than Manuel!
The other feature is the video series "First Impressions" by Jessica Bliss and Jennifer Justus - about what makes Nashville Nashville. An excerpt from Manuel's video:
When I came here in 1988, I found Nashville kind of a rural city. Second Avenue, down Broadway, was kind of down a little bit. But then it started to pick up. ... And we have a lot of culture. Since I arrived here [from California], many, many people from Santa Fe, Los Angles, Arizona are moving to Nashville. ... Old Nashville or Tennessee is no longer a bunch of Americans, a bunch of hillbillies with one thinking in mind. And that black and white stuff is gone forever. I am so happy to see that.
The First Impressions video also features Manuel's daughter Morelia Cuevas, who has just launched Rhinestone Cure, a non-profit diabetes foundation.

Metromix H/T: Post Politics

Photo of Manuel by Cambridge Jones

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday morning, Williamson County, TX residents will plea for shutdown of CCA-operated family and child detention facility

T. Don Hutto Center has survived two previous contract challenges

More of interview with CCA's Louise Grant

The T. Don Hutto blog reports here that the Williamson County, TX County Commissioners Court will meet at 9:15 a.m. this morning, and that residents will call for the termination of the County's contract allowing Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to operate the T. Don Hutto family and child detention facility. See this story and its timeline for more information about the facility.

Residents have asked the County to terminate the CCA contract at least twice before, in part on the argument that the County is exposed to liability for what happens at Hutto, where the federal immigration agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") contracts with CCA to provide detention-related services. From the T. Don Hutto blog:
First, ICE's Family Residential Standards are based on policies used at adult prisons, making them an inappropriate model for the care of families. Second, these standards are not enforceable. That means that CCA and Williamson County can fall out of compliance with little legal recourse by families detained there. While this may be legally convenient for the contractors, it does not release them from the responsibility for the care and welfare of families at Hutto.
The Hutto facility has been under federal judicial supervision since federal litigation in 2007 led to a settlement between the ACLU and ICE, but that supervision will end in August. The conditions mandated by the settlement were summarized by the ACLU at the time:
Additional improvements ICE will be required to make as a result of the settlement include allowing children over the age of 12 to move freely about the facility; providing a full-time, on-site pediatrician; eliminating the count system so that families are not forced to stay in their cells 12 hours a day; installing privacy curtains around toilets; offering field trip opportunities to children; supplying more toys and age-and language-appropriate books; and improving the nutritional value of food. ICE must also allow regular legal orientation presentations by local immigrants' rights organizations; allow family and friends to visit Hutto detainees seven days a week; and allow children to keep paper and pens in their rooms. ICE's compliance with each of these reforms, as well as other conditions reforms, will be subject to external oversight to ensure their permanence.
When the liability issue arose in October 2007, CCA issued this statement, and a CCA attorney made the case to the County Commissioners that they were not only immune from liability but immune from suit (see video above).

One of the commissioners states in the video that ICE had indicated to the County at one time that "there is a monitoring system not working and you should have had it fixed," which was contrary to the commissioner's understanding that such a problem would be CCA's responsibility.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court has twice voted to continue the contract when asked to terminate it.

In an interview with, CCA VP of Marketing and Communications Louise Grant praised the facility and the staff, noting that the children have written nice letters and that the staff has commented on the conditions at the facility being better than the conditions which some of the families have just left:
I know when I've been to that facility, and I have seen - I've walked in the classrooms, and there are murals painted on the wall of Disney characters, there are books in Spanish, and we have our Hispanic teachers, and the children - and I've seen, I have in my desk in drawers, I have letters that the children have written to the teachers, to the counselors, to the detention officers, saying things like, "Thank you for making me smile; you made me feel safe."

I know that having talked to our staff there, some of them even realize that, especially for those who were just brought over the border, who just came over the border, and now are detained at that facility, as opposed to any who have been in the country for a while, we've said they're getting more education, more recreation, healthier food, than they've probably had in their lifetime. And we do know that they are going to go back to their country of origin and you wonder what is the condition they will go back to, because we know how safe they are right now, in our facility. We know what opportunities they have for education, for recreation, high caloric content, and their ability to be with not only their family, but others, so that it truly is a community.

So while we're not debating public policy, we can say that as a company, we are extremely proud of the level of integrity in how we've managed that contract, and the quality of our staff, who every single day are coming in, and they are working diligently to ensure that those families are safe, that they are well treated, and they're getting medical care there that probably exceeds anything they've ever had in their lifetime.
At the time of the 2007 settlement, the ACLU stated that all of the 26 children represented by the ACLU and co-counsel had been released from Hutto. Six of the children were released days before the settlement was finalized, and were living with U.S. citizen and/or legal permanent resident family members while pursuing their asylum claims.

Free personal banking course tonight is first of three financial education classes for Hispanic business owners

From the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce*:
U.S. Bank and the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will be presenting free financial education classes to Hispanic business owners in Nashville and surrounding areas. The joint initiative is geared to promote financial literacy and raise awareness among Nashville's emergent Hispanic business community. The three-month-long campaign will include classes using U.S. Bank's financial literacy curriculum, which has modules on banking, credit, budgeting, saving, credit cards, loans, home ownership, and more. The classes begin July 28, and will run through September 15th.

* Tuesday, July 28 Personal Banking - 5:30 - 7:30 pm
* Tuesday, August 11 Business 101 - 5:30 - 7:30 pm
* Tuesday, Sept. 15 Business Banking - 5:30 - 7:30 pm

"Considering that Hispanic business ownership is growing three times as fast as the national average and Hispanic purchasing power is expected to reach more than $1.1 trillion by the end of 2009, and $12.4 trillion by 2011 according to the Census Bureau and other studies, I firmly believe this will be a learning experience for all of us," says Yuri Cunza, Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President. Recent data indicates that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses is 3 million with total revenues of more than $539 billion.

The first class on basic banking will be on July 28, with two additional classes on other financial literacy topics on August 11, and September 15. All classes will be at U.S. Bank branch locations.

The first scheduled event will take place at the U.S Bank Antioch branch located at 929 Bell Rd Antioch, TN 37013 and will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information contact Loraine Segovia, at the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Tel. 615-216-5737 or register via email:

To reach or register for this class through U.S. Bank please contact Mrs. Ionela Chera, Universal Banker at 615-733-0787

Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce business & educational programs committee members will be in attendance as well as other NAHCC partners such as the SBA and the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions.
how many Hispanic chambers are there in Nashville?

Photo by Darren Hester. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alessandra Villalobos, 4 years old, in "a fate worse than life"

This week's cover of the Nashville Scene describes what happened and is happening to 4-year-old Alessandra Villalobos as "a fate worse than life." In 2007, at about two years old, Alessandra fell ill and ultimately suffered from tragic medical complications. Not only was her body damaged beyond human repair, but since then, she has been separated from her parents as part of a multi-layered (and multi-lawyered) legal nightmare.

Excerpts from the Scene:
Alessandra doesn't speak. When she cries, she doesn't make a sound—there are only tears and a pained grimace. She has a tracheotomy. The hiss and click of the mechanical ventilator sounds beneath her shirt. She is on two medications for seizures, has cerebral palsy and severe brain damage. Her kidneys continue to fail her.
[Her mother Ingrid Diaz] slips her fingers into her daughter's limp hand. Alessandra's eyelids droop and her mouth is slack like the rest of her body, which is strapped to a wheelchair to prevent her from listing. Diaz is angry about the way the little girl's hair looks today. She'll weep for this and for a thousand other things when she returns home, once again, without her daughter.
Diaz just wants her daughter back. ... She wants to go back to Mexico, and to take her daughter with her.
There's another agreement to sign. This one would leave Alessandra in the group home for the time being, but allows her "liberal" visitation rights. They tell her she's not giving up any of her parental rights.

In a case sprawling across multiple courts—with millions of dollars potentially at stake—this small, soft-spoken woman from Mexico seems swept up in a current she can't resist.

Diaz's nurses watched as her attorneys spelled out the agreement through the translator.

"She's gonna cave," predicted Kristin Johnson, one of Alessandra's nurses who had come to the hearing. "Anytime she gets under pressure, she'll cave."

Diaz signed the document.

In court, Judge Kennedy read the agreement into the record. He asked Diaz if she understood and agreed with its provisions.

"Sí," she said, nearly inaudibly.
Read the entire cover story in the Scene here.

May God heal this girl's body and bring healing to her family, as well. As many adults are involved in Alessandra's story, one would hope that she is bathed in prayer both here in her native Tennessee and in her parents' native Mexico. If you have a prayer list, please keep Alessandra and her family on it.

Photo by Thomas Wollbeck. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ruben Navarrette: Sotomayor pundits must be kidding; Republicans need "Latino 101"

"Latinos aren't a recent addition to America. They are America."

Nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, author of A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano, wrote two recent columns (here and here) on the low-quality questioning of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, both inside and outside the Senate chamber. Here is an excerpt of last week's column, which focuses on the pundits:
It's been surreal to watch pundits ask whether Sotomayor can get along with people who don't look like her and handle the pressure of integrating an institution that lacks diversity.

They must be kidding. She's been doing that since she first stepped on a college campus nearly 40 years ago...
Read the rest of last week's column here.

In this week's column, Navarrette turns to the Senate:
Whatever it was that caused the Republicans' blind spot, it is obvious that they need a crash course in Latinos 101. It was painful to watch them willingly surrender any shred of credit that the GOP deserves for putting Sotomayor on the road to make history as the first Latina Supreme Court justice. It was a Republican president - George H.W. Bush - who nominated Sotomayor to the federal bench in 1991. If the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were smart, they would have mentioned that fact over and over again to advance the notion that Republicans also at times open doors for women and minorities. Instead of playing up the idea of the GOP being a big tent, they advertised it as a restricted club.
All week I've been hearing from readers - including some who claimed to be conservatives - who said they were shocked at the ignorance that Republican senators showed during their questioning of Sotomayor. Some talked about having served in the military with Latinos or teaching them in public schools or working alongside them. And they all said that, as a result of that kind of exposure, they had come to realize that Latinos aren't a recent addition to America. They are America.
Read the rest of this week's column here.

For a free "Latino 101" keep reading

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Attorney Gregg Ramos and Attorney Mario Ramos are not the same person

A. Gregory

("Gregg") Ramos

Mario M.


Law School
Law firm
State law licenses

Nashville attorney A. Gregory ("Gregg" not "Greg") Ramos and Nashville attorney Mario Ramos are not the same person, nor are they related. Still, sometimes Nashville can't get tell the two men apart.

Gregg's office will get calls from people seeking immigration or criminal advice, two areas in which Gregg does not practice. After Gregg was elected to the presidency of the Nashville Bar Association in 2004, two colleagues congratulated Mario. Mario celebrated his birthday last week, but Gregg was getting some of Mario's well-wishing.

Admittedly, both men have at times been a "go-to" source for local media seeking comment on Hispanic issues. Mario was once president of a local group called "Unamonos" and was often quoted in the late 90's (the Nashville Scene called Mario a spokesman for all immigrants in 1996). Gregg's press appearances have been more recent. He has been asked for comment on the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative, the case of Davidson County's 287(g)-driven shackling of Juana Villegas, and the citywide effort against the English Only campaign. Gregg was also on the cover of the Nashville Scene earlier this year as Nashvillian of the Year.

Mario has been more actively engaged in social media through his Facebook account, law firm blog, and a short-lived YouTube channel. Gregg is on LinkedIn, but he's not on Facebook.

Mario was recently recognized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) with an Advocacy Award for Outstanding Efforts in Support of AILA’s Legislative Agenda. Gregg was recently named among the "Best of the Bar" by the Nashville Business Journal.

Mario is married to Iris, and their two children are Maximiliano and Alexandro. Mario's father Andres passed away in 2005 and was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville. Mario's parents' roots are in Colombia.

Gregg's wife's name is Sandy, and their two children are Melody and David. Gregg's father Luis passed away in 2002 and was laid to rest in a veterans' cemetery in Phoenix. Gregg's parents' roots are in Mexico.

Mario Ramos' bio is here.

Gregg Ramos' bio is here.

The confusion of Gregg and Mario reminds me of the Great Muppet Caper gag in which Fozzie Bear and Kermit the Frog are described as identical twins.

Final note: Another Nashville attorney - Fernando Jose Ramos, BPR# 011105, who is neither Gregg nor Mario - was suspended by Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 8, 2009 for a period of three (3) years. (Source: And on April 2, 2009, the Williamson County Circuit Court's criminal conviction and suspension of attorney Fred Ramos was upheld in part and modified in part by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee. (Source: Out of an abundance of caution, I'll not say whether Fernando and Fred are the same man.

While the fates of Fernando Jose Ramos and Fred Ramos also cause unwarranted confusion with Mario Ramos and Gregg Ramos (misdirected condolences have been offered), the names "Fernando Ramos" and "Fred Ramos" are not nearly as prominent in the local press or as subject to popular confusion as Gregg and Mario.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ferguson Weir: Sotomayor knows America, but does America know her?

Carrie Ferguson Weir

"Perhaps if we spent more time knowing each other, getting each other, giving each other a few passes for boberias we wouldn't have to 'splain ourselves so much."

Carrie Ferguson Weir of Bilingual in the Boonies recently reflected on Senator Tom Coburn's Ricky Ricardo punch line at the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. Weir sees in Coburn's comment a reminder that Americans need to get to know each other a little better.

From the editorial:
Coburn's Ricky Ricardo channeling, in what video shows was a light-hearted moment during mostly annoying (in my opinion) Senate hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, was wrong. But, I give him a break because he doesn't, or didn't know, it was wrong.

Not wrong like morally offensive or racist (though some see it as such), but wrong in that it shows nice and brightly how little we know each other. Sen. Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, attempted to connect with the chica from the South Bronx housing complex in perhaps the only way he knew how.

It's like people who just met me, find out I'm a Cuban from Miami and first thing they ask is if I used to watch Miami Vice.

Here's another. A few weeks ago, I went to a lovely little restaurant in Nashville with a group of about 10 Latinas. I was the only American-born Latina. The others were from places like Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica. Among us were an attorney, a pediatrician, a dentist, doctor, a couple stay-at-home moms and several execs. Spanish and English and Spanglish was being spoken.

The very nice waiter, who spoke a little Spanish, asked if we were a group of teachers. No. Then, he made a fist, as in solidarity, and asked: "La Raza?''



Here's what I know for sure. Sonia Sotomayor is an American who happens to be of Latino descent. She knows her cultura, but I am putting down money she also knows mom and apple pie. She knows baseball, the American dream. And she even probably knows a thing or two about Mayberry and "the real America.'' How much does "the real America'' know about her, and Americans like her? How much does it assume about her based on her ethnicity?

So, he stuck his foot in his mouth. She stuck her foot in her mouth.
The beauty is we can all learn from it and move on.

Perhaps if we spent more time knowing each other, getting each other, giving each other a few passes for boberias we wouldn't have to 'splain ourselves so much.
Read the full editorial here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Sotomayor hearings from another angle

2009 "You Are So Nashville If..." winners are heavy on the Mexican food and English Only

Symphony conductor Giancarlo Guerrero mentioned twice

20th edition of annual Nashville Scene contest

Every year for the past 20 years, the Nashville Scene has held a fill-in-the-blank contest called "You Are Nashville If...":
If you want to find out what's on people's minds—what makes them grind their teeth on the drive to work, what makes them spit their morning coffee, and what makes them consider chucking the remote by the time they hit the sack—don't do any of the things the media typically do to take the city's pulse. Don't conduct a poll. Don't hire telemarketers. Don't put a guy with a clipboard at the foot of the escalator in Green Hills Mall. Instead, just ask people to finish this thought: "You are so Nashville if..."
As in previous years, the 2009 edition contains subjects that have been featured on This year, it's Mexican food and language politics.

Specifically, the entries focused on the social-media-friendly mobile taco behemoth (definitely not a cart) Mas Tacos, the upscale "Mexican gourmet" Gulch restaurant Cantina Laredo, and the English Only special election. With the multiple mentions, all three cement their place in Nashville's 2008-2009 zeitgeist.

Also, Nashville Symphony conductor Giancarlo Guerrero has become so intertwined in our city that he was mentioned in conjunction with both Mexican food and the English Only vote.

Nashville seems to be behaving much better as a city than we were in 2005, when the Scene found it necessary to issue a memo to "all y'all who bitched about having to learn how to say 'all y'all' in Spanish."

Here are those 2009 entries:


You drunkenly tried to order a chicken taco from an unfortunate tourist in a Winnebago. Dan McNamara (this was the second place entry)

You live on Nolensville Road but just drove to The Gulch to eat Mexican food. Lindsay Bergstrom

You don't understand why those Giancarlo Guerrero Nashville Symphony ads don't tell you where his Mexican restaurant is. Mike Bodayle

Your local taco stand has valet parking. Barbara Lamb [no relation -ed.]

You know you've eaten tacos from the Mas Tacos truck, but you just can't quite remember what they tasted like, looked like or cost you. Larry Mell Morgan

You condone paying $10 for tableside guacamole as long as it's served to you in The Gulch. Andrew Cole


You tweeted something in Spanish to @ericcrafton just to get on his nerves. Andrew Cole

You were the only English First donor who actually lives here. Meredith Hunter

After English Only failed, you requested a copy of the Metro budget in Roman numerals. Daniel Dunn

You voted for "English First" but ordered Rosetta Stone off the TV ads to learn Spanish. Jerry Klein

You appreciate all he did in defeating the English Only amendment, and you feel really guilty, but you're going to have to remove Mario Ramos from your Facebook friends now. Larry Mell Morgan

You wouldn't pee on Eric Crafton to put him out if he was on fire. Lucas Leverett

You wish you lived in Eric Crafton's district so you could run against him, or at least TP his house. Lucas Leverett

You caught the swine flu at a Cinco de Mayo party at Eric Crafton's house. Michael Williams

You were disappointed that the "English First" ballot wasn't bilingual. Mike Bodayle

Eric Crafton wants to deport Giancarlo Guerrero. Unknown

You think that English Only is good, only you don't speak English that good. Unknown

Eric Crafton's life is a foreign affair. Wando Weaver

You'd like to teabag Eric Crafton with a burrito.
Read all of the winning entries at


Friday, July 17, 2009

Audience members needed for Spanish "700 Club" taping today on Dickerson Pike

Club 700 Hoy has been taping in Nashville for five years

Today's guest is Fernando Arau, of Despierta America

The Tennessean reports here that the Christian Broadcast Network's Spanish-language version of The 700 Club - the sister program is called Club 700 Hoy (The 700 Club Today) - is looking for live audience members for a taping today in Nashville. The Tennessean report says that the show has been taped in Nashville three times a year, a week at a time, for the past five years, and that this is the first time a local audience will be used for the taping. The use of local audience members is intended to grow the show's viewership, according to the Tennessean.

The live recording will take place today from 2 to 6pm, and an audience of 100 people is needed. Today's guest is Fernando Arau, one of the hosts of Univision's Despierta America. The taping is free, and audience members will also receive gifts.

From the report:
"We would like to reach out to the Hispanic community in Nashville, which is becoming very prominent," said Rafael Barreiro, producer of Club 700 Hoy. "The heart of the program is to give the Hispanic community hope."
Local minister Rev. Anibal Pena of Iglesia Monte Los Olivos told the Tennessean that he would like to see the show air more frequently than its current broadcast schedule. The show can be viewed Sundays at 6am Central Time on Galavision, and on the show's web site

According to CBN:
CBN has broadcast The 700 Club continuously in Latin America for the last 40 years, making it one of the longest-running programs in the region's broadcast history.

Now Club 700 Hoy presents its latest cutting-edge Spanish version of the program. Hosted by reknowned musician Hector Hermosillo and the multitalented Amarilis Rivera. The show continues to offer a mix of commentary, interviews, music highlights, and feature stories.

Historically, CBN programming has been seen in more than 25 Iberoamerican countries on national secular television markets.

Club 700 Hoy potentially reaches 83 percent of Spanish cable TV households in the United States on Galavision, every Sunday at 7am [Eastern] and can be seen in more than 16 countries across Latin America.
The Tennessean indicates that potential audience members need to send an e-mail to with the subject line “audience.” An alternate contact is Monica Perez, 700 Club Audience Club coordinator, available at and 787-485-8758.

The taping will take place at North Star Studios at 3201 Dickerson Pike, Nashville, TN 37207

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Youth Justice Group lobbies Cooper to support Dream Act

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Youth Justice Group

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition youth justice group lobbied Congressman Cooper yesterday to support the Dream Act this year. The Dream Act is up to 84 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives (source:

As I described it to my own representatives, the Dream Act would set conditions by which legal status could be earned by dedicated youth who have no individual culpability for the fact that they don't have a visa. Eligible youth would demonstrate personal responsibility in the circumstances they can control, like their studies, in exchange for permission to work and get a higher education.

Further information is available from the Dream Act article on Wikipedia.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let's engage (educate?) fellow conservatives and grow the party, says Tennessee Republican National Hispanic Assembly

52,000 potential Latino Tennessee voters in 2010

Plus: Phil Valentine's comments at Ibiza

The Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Tennessee (TNRNHA) is 40 members strong and wants to do at least two things: (1) engage fellow conservatives, and (2) grow the party with Hispanic voters.

Engage: we are U.S. citizen Hispanic Tennesseans, and (maybe) take it easy on the rhetoric

One idea TNRNHA President Raul Lopez says is long overdue is that Hispanics must engage high-profile conservatives such as radio host Phil Valentine, who "might generate ill-will to Americans, that happen to be Hispanic, as a by-product of their popular commentary on illegal immigration," according to Lopez. The TNRNHA invited Valentine to speak at an event held at local latin dance club Ibiza, and both The Tennessean and WPLN filed reports. (Valentine's summary of his comments at the Ibiza event are at the end of this article.)

It would appear, from Lopez's admission that "ill will" is generated among Hispanic Americans as a result of certain comments on illegal immigration, that his group is concerned about stemming that same ill will, and maybe not only by its stated strategy of undoing what it sees as public distortions of conservative figures. Could it be that the TNRNHA also wants to change the tone of the Republican party's stance on particularly Hispanic-sensitive political issues?

Take as an example the TNRNHA's statement on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (H/T: Post Politics). The group didn't stray too far from some of the controversial GOP allegations of racism against the sitting federal appellate court judge, citing "the bias she will bring to the Supreme Court as a Latina woman," but the TNRNHA did eschew the specific word "racist" when describing Sotomayor and twice welcomed the concept of diversity on the nation's highest court.

There is also some evidence that the group intends to correct distortions of facts about Hispanics - for example, the kind of generalizations about legal status that led to the "ivory soap" comment by Maury County official Bob Farmer, who said that 99.99% of Hispanics are "here illegally." Lopez was quoted by WPLN as saying that he wants people to know there are many U.S. citizen and legal resident Hispanics in Tennessee. In fact, it is estimated that 75% of the Hispanics living in Tennessee fit into those citizen and legal resident categories.

Grow the party: 52,000 potential voters

The TNRNHA has 40 members now, according to the Tennessean, but the group sees its potential as much greater. From the Tennessean story:
The Tennessee Republican National Hispanic Assembly formed in April, said Raul Lopez, the group's Cuban-American chairman, and its membership stands at 40. But the figure he's looking at is 52,000 — an estimate of potential Latino voters next year.
TNRNHA Vice-Chair Juan Borges was quoted in a recent press release as saying, "The Hispanic vote is critical":
Right now we estimate that there are about 155,000 homes in Middle Tennessee that speak Spanish. We estimate that there are about 53,000 Latinos registered to vote. Out of those only about 9,500 have voted in the previous election.

"They are an untapped market and we're going to go get them. We're going to give them a place to belong and it's going to be the Republican National Hispanic Assembly."

Nationally: Republicans struggle for Hispanic audience

In June, the national chairman of the RNHA commented on the importance of Hispanic voters:
The Republican Party must recapture a material portion of the Hispanic vote or we will not win national elections in the future.
Jeb Bush, in a July interview with Tucker Carlson for Esquire, said that Republicans are
sending signals that Hispanics aren't wanted in our party
and that
the emotion, the anger, is a signal. ... It makes it sound like them and us.
In 2005, GOP author of Los Republicanos and former George W. Bush administration official Leslie Sanchez warned this would happen:
Ham-fisted attacks ... on illegal immigrants, while political red meat for some, cause many in our coalition -- particularly Hispanics and suburban women -- to recoil.
In Nashville in 2005, a conservative talk show host said that Governor Bredesen was not tuned in to the "animosity" on the "vibrant" issue of illegal immigration, describing this state of affairs as a political weakness of Bredesen to be exploited. In retrospect, the political weapon built on that animosity appears to have backfired, having reached a fever pitch in May 2006, marked by the now-famous "shoot him" punch line by Nashville talk show host Phil Valentine.

Phil Valentine speaks to the TNRNHA

Phil Valentine kindly summarized for his comments at the recent TNRNHA event held at Ibiza. Here they are:
The basic theme of my talk was that I am not at all opposed to immigration. I believe orderly, legal immigration is still vital to the United States. I believe illegal immigrants do great damage to Hispanics in general because of the MS13 problem, jobs going to illegals, drunk driving deaths and murders committed by illegal aliens.

The legal Hispanic community must come together to help solve this problem. They cannot turn a blind eye or, worse, help harbor those who have broken into this country. The key to success is assimilation. Those who don't will never be successful in this country. That means a common language and a common heritage. There's nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage but placing that heritage above being American is unacceptable.

It's time to join together and solve this problem for the good of the country.

TNRNHA emphasizes cultural conservatism, defense, fiscal responsibility

When I asked Raul Lopez about his own comments at the Ibiza event, here is what he said:
Faith, Family, Freedom and Fiscal Responsibility.

We Republicans believe in the Sanctity of Life (We're the ONLY Party that backs it up in our platform)
We believe in the Sanctity of Marriage
We believe in empowering the family over the government (Less taxes, Less bureaucracy, Enhanced personal empowerment)
We believe in Secure Borders (The North, South, East, and West) to protect us from terrorism and any other threats to our Nation
We believe that everyone should not be judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character (We don't believe in Racial Discrimination; even reverse Discrimination)
We believe that you can't spend your way to long lasting recovery and prosperity

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two scams out there: one targets unvisaed Tennesseans, another targets Spanish-speakers

Update below: How an ad for an "International Driver License" was pitched to me after posting this report.

There are at least two scams going around in Tennessee: one that targets the unvisaed immigrant, and one that targets Spanish-speakers.

"International drivers license" scam

When I was in Chile last month, my friends told me I should have gotten an "international drivers license" so if I got pulled over in my rental car, I wouldn't have any trouble with the local police. While there is such a thing as an international driving permit (the AAA and the NAC are the only authorized issuers for bearers of U.S. drivers licenses, according to the U.S. State Department), the term "international drivers license" is being used to sell worthless documents to unvisaed immigrants in Tennessee, according to the Commercial Appeal (h/t: Post Politics). The purpose of the scam, according to the article:
to fool the person who's buying the document, not the person they'll show it to
According to the Commercial Appeal article, the "international drivers license" vendors claim that their service offers a translation of valid foreign drivers licenses. According to the U.S. government, however, while holders of valid foreign drivers licenses can legally drive in the U.S. under an international driving permit, there are two important conditions:
  • The document can only be used by foreigners traveling in the U.S., not foreigners residing here
    Source: Federal Trade Commission
  • Application for the international driving permit has to be from outside the U.S.
Victims of the international drivers license scams are encouraged to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Notaries impersonating lawyers

When someone registers as a notary public in Tennessee and offers legal services to Spanish-speakers under the title of "notario publico," that is a scam - because in Latin America, a notario publico is an attorney, but in Tennessee, a notary public is not. The scam takes advantage of the similarity of the two terms. From the Attorney General's office:
Attorney General Bob Cooper, on behalf of Mary Clement, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, filed three settlements and two lawsuits today involving companies allegedly using misleading advertisements promoting themselves as a “notario publico” in Tennessee.

The Spanish translation of “notary public” is “notario publico,” or in the plural “notarios publicos.” In many Spanish-speaking countries, a notario publico is a civil-law notary, or an attorney who has been specially appointed to grant public faith to certain common, everyday transactions. As a result, consumers often believe these individuals and the related transactions involve a higher level of trust and accuracy.

Unfortunately, some businesses are targeting Spanish-speaking Tennessee residents by advertising themselves as “notarios publicos”, when they are merely offering notary public services. Under Tennessee law, a notary public who is not licensed to practice law in Tennessee and advertises their services as a notary public must include in all advertisements the following disclaimer in English and the language used in the ad: “I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, AND I MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL ADVICE.”

“My office is concerned about any businesses misleading consumers,” Attorney General Cooper said. “We will continue to enforce the Notaries Public law to ensure that all consumers understand what they are purchasing.”

The State has entered settlements with Conny Diaz, individually and doing business as Diaz Servicio de Taxes, based in Northern Mississippi; Selvyn Amaya, individually and doing business as Servicios Publicos, Casa Taxes and Casa y Taxes, based in Nashville; and Julio Barillas, individually and doing business as Reembolsos Rapidos and JB Services, based in Memphis.

These businesses, which advertised in Tennessee without the required disclaimer, have agreed to modify their advertisements to comply with state law and to pay civil penalties and attorneys’ fees.

The State additionally filed lawsuits against the following individuals and companies: Juan Hernandez, individually and doing business as Centro Azteca, a Chattanooga company; and Edison Roman, individually and doing business as Oficina Internacional in Memphis.

The State’s lawsuits allege violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act for advertising as a “notario publico” without the required disclaimer. In addition, the complaint against Juan Hernandez, individually and doing business as Centro Azteca, alleges the company advertised as “abogados,” the Spanish word for “attorneys,” without any disclaimer. The State is seeking an injunction, restitution, civil penalties and attorneys’ fees in both lawsuits.

Director Clement warned consumers to be careful when choosing individuals to perform legal services. “I encourage Tennesseans in need of an attorney to confirm the attorney is in good standing and licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee by contacting the Board of Professional Responsibility at (615) 361-7500 or going to the website at,” she said.

To see a copy of the State’s filings, go to and then click on Office Information and Cases of Interest at

Consumers who have complaints about any of the companies sued by the State or other individuals or businesses advertising as a “notario publico” without the required disclaimer or otherwise engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-342-8385 (toll-free inside Tennessee) or (615) 741-4737.

If you know of an individual or company that may be practicing law without a license, please file a complaint with this Office by downloading a complaint form from and mailing it back to this Office at:

Tennessee Attorney General's Office
Consumer Advocate and Protection Division
Attn: UPL Complaint
P.O. Box 20207
Nashville, TN 37202-0207
Edited to add: When I published this story, a 300x250 block ad was displayed in my dashboard, with the headline "GET YOUR INTERNATIONAL DRIVER LICENSE NOW!". It was not from the NAC or the AAA. I clicked over from the company's professional-looking ad to its professional-looking web site, and it claims to be in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. The "Legal Disclaimer" section says the following:
The information contained within this website is protected under the Article of the 1st Amendment [sic] to the United States Constitution and is not intended to contain legal advise [sic]. The primary function of this website is for educational [sic] on a translation document and nothing within should be construed as legal advice.
The "Conditions" that appear in the online application page are as follows:
I pledge to follow all city, state, federal & international traffic regulations required by law. I acknowledge that I may not drive anywhere without a valid driver's license. I will obey all of the rules and regulations of the UN Conference on Road Traffic in [sic] 1923, 1943, 1949 and 1968. I acknowledge that this document is a driver license translation and is valid only with a driver license. I hereby certify that my driver license is currently valid and is not suspended or revoked.

[checkbox] I accept this [sic] conditions
Graphically, the advertiser's site is much more impressive than the AAA and NAC sites. But for a service touting translation as its primary function, however, you have to wonder. Maybe the legal disclaimers and conditions and the company's use of the term "international drivers license" mean that the company admits that its document does not constitute an international driving permit. Notice how they phrase the first bullet point on the front page of their web site, without actually saying that the document entitles the bearer to legally drive in the U.S.:
Drive a car in almost any place in the world!. [sic]
I wonder what their response would be to the allegation that their document is "worthless" or a "scam." From the pictures, the product looks like a very pretty translation of whatever information the applicant submits to the company online or via mail. Whether the product purports to be more, and is not, is the scam question.

It comes in the form of a small card, bearing the consumer's photo and identifying information, with the title "International Driver Document" in English, "Licencia de Conducir Internacional" in Spanish, and "Permis de Conduire International" in French.

Photo by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


75 percent of Tennessee Hispanics are U.S. citizens or legal residents

Statistics indicate that 75% of the Hispanic population of Tennessee is either a U.S. citizen or a legal resident.

Of all of the Hispanics in Tennessee, 46% are native-born U.S. citizens. That puts the foreign-born population of Hispanics in Tennessee at 54% of the total (100%-46% native-born). Among foreign-born Hispanics, about 53% have been naturalized as full-fledged U.S. citizens or are otherwise legal residents (having a valid visa but not yet citizenship).
46% native-born U.S. citizens
29% legal residents or naturalized U.S. citizens (53% of 54%)
75% of Tennessee Hispanics are U.S. citizens or legal residents
Illustration by

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Salvador Guzman buys second AM radio station

"Mexican immigrants are used to working hard."

Salvador Guzman and his brother are acquiring WPFD-AM Fairview at a selling price of $100,000 plus "an additional amount at closing for seller’s inventory," according to Guzman already owns Nashville's Spanish-language radio station WHEW-AM, according to the report.

Guzman also owns two stores and six local restaurants in the Nashville area, according to a March report in the Tennessean. In a 2007 interview with CNN/Money/Fortune (with photo), Guzman describes his entry into the restaurant business and concludes, "Mexican immigrants are used to working hard."

Guzman has hosted fundraisers for the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Tennessee (TNRNHA) and for Howard Gentry's mayoral campaign.

In 2006, Guzman was elected to the board of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a national organization of 150 local Hispanic chambers.

Photo by Seven Morris. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cantina Laredo gourmet Mexican restaurant opens first Tennessee location to good reviews

Nashville Scene: "Cantina Laredo is to Mexican as P.F. Chang's is to Chinese"

"Darn good ... pricey"

Gourmet Mexican restaurant chain Cantina Laredo opened its doors on the ground floor of the ICON in the Gulch in April. Celebrating the grand opening of CL's first Tennessee location were Mayor Karl Dean and several Metro Council members, including Sandra Moore, Walter Hunt and Erica Gilmore, according to a press release.

The reviews on Yelp are 4.5 stars out of 5, and 85% of the voters on UrbanSpoon like it. The Nashville Scene thought the food was "darn good" and "pricey" in its initial review, following up with high praise for the service, salads and desserts in its full-length review, calling Cantina Laredo the P.F. Chang's of Mexican food.

Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. In addition to a variety of authentic Mexican dishes, other offerings include a Sunday brunch with complimentary Bloody Marys and Mimosas, preparation of fresh guacamole at the customer’s table, and catering services for events such as holiday parties and business meetings. Entrées are priced between $14 and $26. The restaurant is located at 592 12th Avenue South, (615) 259-9282.

The Scene recommends calling ahead of time.

The restaurant's Nashville competition includes La Paz in Green Hills, and Rosario's in Edgehill Village, as pointed out by William Williams in his City Paper review.

Dana Grizzél of has a glowing review here, and GimmeYummy has an extensive review - with pictures - here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Feel Good Fourth of July: The American Dream Lives On

Happy Independence Day!

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