Sunday, December 2, 2012

Casa Azafrán Community Center Opens

by Cindy McCain

Casa Azafrán Community Center celebrated its Grand Opening on December 1, 2012.  Embracing diversity, unity and cultural exchange, the building beckons anyone who has made Middle Tennessee his or her home.   The “Casa for All” is an international hub for education, health services, fitness, volunteerism, culinary and artistic expression.   Yesterday it already housed happy people.  Down the halls, crowds stopped to admire the art gallery, photos taken by locals of Nashville’s global community; heard about programs; bumped into old friends and made new ones.  Likewise the courtyard, meeting rooms and studio  buzzed with excited, smiling folks gathered to laugh, eat, enjoy.  The festivities which included exhibitions, crafts, food and dance ran until midnight with a salsa social with Sentir el Ritmo. 

The 28,800-square-foot building, located at 2195 Nolensville Pike,  was purchased by Conexión Américas in December 2011.  Teaming with the lead organization/site operator are partnering organizations:  United Neighborhood Health Services, Family and Children’s Service, YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Justice for Our Neighbors Tennessee, and The Global Education Center.  Goals of the colossal collaboration also include entrepreneurship training and community building events.  Conversations are ongoing for other potential partners, and space is available for those who wish to rent it for classes, meetings, or events. 

One of many opportunities at Casa Azafrán is a free class for girls in grades 5-8. Offered by YWCA Nashville’s Girls Inc. Program on Thursday nights from 6-7:30, participants will learn dancing, cooking, creative writing, and art.  They will discuss topics such as economic literacy and how to deal with negative pressure from peers and media.   The program’s goal is to empower women and encourage girls to become peer educators.  Tina Ortiz of YWCA said:  “We’re excited to partner with Casa  Azafrán within the community.  We believe great opportunities will come from this.”    

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lupe Veloz: helping children to read

Lupe Veloz
by Rebecca Zanolini 
The endeavor to improve the quality of life for all residents is undoubtedly a collective effort between various members of our community. One such member who deserves to be highlighted for her efforts in helping those around her is Ms. Lupe Veloz.
I first had the pleasure of meeting Lupe some years ago at the Williamson County Public Library. I was in the children’s section with my young daughter when I overheard a friendly library employee assisting an individual in Spanish. Her commitment to helping the patron and clear passion for her job caught my attention. After introducing myself to her, I learned I was speaking with Lupe Veloz.
After witnessing several similar occasions of Lupe’s efforts in assisting both Spanish and English speaking patrons, I finally asked her what made her so passionate about her job and her community. This is what she told me.
Lupe Veloz, daughter of Mexican immigrants, grew up in the Los Angeles County area of California. With Spanish being the only language used in her home and community, it was not until first grade when she started going to school in the Los Angeles Unified School District that she began to learn English. She shared with me that her language barrier caused her to fail every subject in every grade all the way through the fifth grade.
Ms. Veloz credits both her mother’s support and her 6th grade teacher, Mr. Prescott for being the catalyst for her academic success. Mr. Prescott was able to identify that Lupe’s primary academic deficiency was a lack of literacy skills. Afraid that Lupe and peers like her would not be able to finish school, Mr. Prescott spent the following summer teaching Lupe and several of her classmates how to read. By the next academic term, Lupe’s scholastic progress had advanced so much that she was scoring at or above the level of her peers.
As an adult, Lupe’s love for reading and value for education and learning were undoubtedly shaped by her early academic experiences. As a mother, she has used Mr. Prescott’s example to educate all six of her children at home. Worth noting is that all of her children (with the exception of the youngest who is still in grade school), have gone on to higher education thanks to the preparation and lessons they received from their mother.
Lupe carries this passion into the work place as well as she tirelessly works to educate local schools and residents on the power of reading in both English and Spanish and the many resources the local library has to offer. Lupe is always ready to educate all who are willing to listen on how to better prepare our children for tomorrow. To this end, she laments the education gap between Latino youth as a group when compared to non-Hispanic whites, which she says both troubles her and motivates her to continue her mission.
To combat this disparity, Veloz emphasizes the need to foster early literacy skills in all children. She points to the power of services offered by local libraries such as summer reading programs to help bridge the gap. Throughout our interview, Lupe repeatedly emphasized the importance of reading and her sense of urgency to help all children gain the skills they need to succeed.
Finally, it is important to underscore once more how Lupe uses her personal and professional experiences on a daily basis to educate those around her, ultimately bettering the community for us all. Lupe Veloz truly is an inspiration to me and is always a pleasure to see on the first floor of the Williamson County Public Library. I invite all to come and meet this wonderful woman and partner with her on improving our community by promoting and fostering literacy skills with our youth one child at a time.
Special thanks to Lupe Veloz for allowing me this interview.

Contributor Rebecca Zanolini has written for about such diverse subjects as violence against women, Conexion Americas' new home Casa Azafranchildren in migration, the Super Bowlpaying taxes regardless of immigration statusYMCA Latino Achievers, the Metro Council Minority Caucus' Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, and her own "Costa Rican rebirth."  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Free tickets to Gilberto Gil Monday

Want free passes to Gilberto Gil at the Schermerhorn tomorrow, Monday? It's the Brazil's Grammy winner's first time in Nashville.

There are two ways to request tickets:

1. RT this @muybna post on Twitter:


2. Go to Hispanic Nashville's Facebook page and comment on the post about this event.

Good luck!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gil Gilberto at Schermerhorn Symphony Center November 5

by Cindy McCain

Seven-time GRAMMY winner, Gilberto Gil, will perform for the first time at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Monday, November 5, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.  The legendary Brazilian singer, composer, and guitar-player has wowed crowds worldwide for almost half a century, mixing samba, bossa nova, rock, reggae, and funk.   Gil’s socially relevant music has taken him on a worldwide odyssey from banishment to becoming Brazil’s Minister of Culture, from MTV to Carnegie Hall.   For more on his journey, go here.

I asked Gilberto Gil how he feels about taking a Nashville stage for the first time.  He replied:

This is my first visit to Tennessee which I know is a very musical state.  It’s thrilling playing in such a musical reference as Nashville, the birthplace of country music.  I can’t wait to get there.
For tickets for Monday’s performance, go here.    

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Part 2 of my short story "The 35th Amendment," from the NaNoWriMo vault

In a burst of creative fiction last November, I wrote a somewhat utopian, immigration-related short story called, "The 35th Amendment," and now I'm publishing the second part of that story below.  Modern media empires, political kingpins, and legacy are all in this new snippet, Chapter 2.

Why am I releasing what amounts to a serial short story with 12 months in between installments?  Because it takes that long for me to think about NaNoWriMo again. November is National Novel Writing Month - "NaNoWriMo" for short - and the gist is that participants try to write a 50,000-word novel during a single month. That's all there is to it. Three failed attempts since 2005 are under my belt, which essentially leaves me with three unfinished short stories, and here I am this year, going for it again.  Carrie Ferguson-Weir (of Bilingual in the Boonies, Tiki Tiki Blog and Conexion Americas) tells me she tried two years ago and plans on a 2012 attempt, too.

What I published last year on was the first part of the story. Perhaps publishing more of it here is how I'm dealing with the possibility that even a failed attempt at a novel is worth it. Or maybe I just found all my old NaNoWriMo stories and liked this one a little more than the others.  Either way, here's Chapter 2 (of about 8) of "The 35th Amendment."  Enjoy, and thanks for indulging me.

The 35th Amendment, Chapter 2

Photo of Texas Capitol Doorknob
by Michael Connell
Licensed via Creative Commons
Lincoln Ray Bates was known as Lee Ray to his friends, and Sting Ray Bates to his enemies. He lived outside Fort Worth, in a home he built himself - in other words, he had help, but he designed the structure, taught himself some of the technical skills like wiring, and put the sweat effort of ten men into it.

Bates' two passions in life were Native American history, and the harmonica.  Evangelical in name and from the pulpit, he frequently sang in the Tarrant First Baptist Church Choir with his wife, Donna.  Ten percent of his auction company profits went to church, and ten percent more went to various charities.  Bates practiced a sabbath - no news, no media, no electronics, no politics on Sundays. On that last count, however, he just did the best he could.  Just being around people was politics.  Bates had climbed to the top of the political ladder in Texas, bypassing the governor's mansion and occupying the top seat in the Legislature - or the "Lege," as it is known.

Bates was fast friends with Virginia Williams, a Dallas native who had built a media empire that had long eclipsed Turner/Atlanta and was aiming for Saban/Univision and Fox/Murdoch.  Williams had started out as a copy editor at one of the Turner financial channels, jumped over to the business side, bought and sold CMT, took an interest in country music and record labels, and quit to start her own news network with a country/rural/Americana twist, called America News, or "America" for short. Williams used the programming on America to throw her weight behind all of the political parties - Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea, Green, Christian Democrat, and Unitarian, but with loyalty to no one machine. Williams had even made a few friends flip parties, or even start (or import) new parties. Some of those experiments stuck at the local or state levels and still thrive, much to Williams' amusement.

America News politicized the 35th Amendment (or "35," as it became known).  That was the modus operandi for the channel, and ratings shot up every time. Where America News differed from the other channels was the scientific, numbers-driven, ebb-and-flow design of the editorial sentiment. Where an issue like 35 was gaining, Williams' anchors, news shows, yell shows, and comedy shows attacked the very idea of a Constitutional amendment, much less this one. Where 35 was losing, Williams turned the cameras on the most sympathetic proponents, and then encouraged mean-spirited attacks from her shows that she knew would backfire, achieving the dual goal of keeping the controversy alive - and her shows in the manufactured debate.

Where different parts of the country were trending differently about the same issue, sometimes Williams would tape two different editions of the same show.  They would never directly contradict each other, but they would be custom-tailored to their purpose.

Williams had been diagnosed with brain cancer three years back but had not shown any significant symptoms. Surgery and treatment had not eliminated the micrometastases in her cerebellum, but whatever her medical team was doing, it was working.

The queen of America News feared death nonetheless. And she feared that she had not set up the business to survive in her absence. This was where Lee Ray made things worse, and it was her mission to fix that before she left this earth.

"Virginia Williams, calling for Lee Ray."

The receptionist sent Lee Ray a note that the call was pending. He looked up at the seven green-vested Girl Scouts in his office and said, "My young American heroines, if you will excuse me.  I cannot do two things in this world: one of them is to turn down a call from the President of the United States; the other is to say goodbye without getting a photo with you and your troop leader.  Could we move our meeting to the next room where the photographer is waiting? I'm sure I'll join you shortly."

And with that - Lee Ray not having lied but having merely implied that an important phone call was waiting, which was true - the office was empty.

"Madam Virginia, how are you?"

Well? Anyone want the next chapter released from the vault? Which was better: Chapter 2 or Chapter 1?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

9th anniversary of

Photo by Daniel Kulinski. Licensed via Creative Commons.

Today is the 9th anniversary of!

Nine years ago today, two of the first stories on this site were about the Scene's Best of Nashville awards that year.  Conexion Americas won Best New Entrepreneurial Venture, and the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute - where many Spanish-speakers learn English and where many English-speakers learn Spanish - won Best (And Most Unheralded) Learning Resource.  Nine years later, Conexion and the TFLI are still innovating and integrating, the former having recently previewed its new digs, Casa Azafran, and the latter having launched a mobile ESL classroom.  The public can still get in on supporting Casa Azafran with a grand opening scheduled for December 1, and the TFLI is raising support next Friday, November 1, at an international wine and food tasting.

On last year's anniversary, I talked about what this site means to me and what I want my children to know about it. What I said there is still true.

Looking back specifically on this past year alone, the interviews and our guest contributors stand out.  If you haven't already, read the personal tales of these interview subjects: Rolando Rostro, "Manuel" (not the clothier), Gabriela Lira, Yvette Martinez, Ricardo Sanchez, and Jaime Romero. As for contributors, you have surely read some of their posts over the past year. They are what keeps this site going, so a heart-felt "thank you" goes out to Cindy McCainRebecca Zanolini, Javier RodriguezRalph Noyes, Gabriela Lira, Humberto CasanovaMiah Castillo, and Councilman Fabian Bedne for gracing the pages of with their ideas, interests, and images.

From the truth and justice desk, it was my pleasure to report this year on where our food comes from, the spectrum of identity words from "American" to "il-----," the so-called Volunteer Rally of pro-immigrant bills introduced in the Tennessee legislature, and the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's immigration amnesty.  I even proposed (via a short work of fiction) my own, simple, amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
"All persons having resided in the United States for twenty-one years are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." (full story here)
All in all, this 9th year of has been a great year and a joy to share with you.  Let the 10th year begin...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Unity in Diversity: 8th Annual Business and Community Awards

by Cindy McCain

Unity in diversity, tenacity and teamwork were themes threaded through speeches at the 8th Annual Business and Community Awards given by the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. On October 11, 2012 suits and sneakers converged on the 27th floor of the Waller building to celebrate the culmination of Hispanic Heritage Month and the non-profit’s recognition of a year of achievements. Among guest speakers were Mayor Karl Dean who said:
We all know this is an exciting time to live and work in Nashville… We all know that the overall economy is doing well here. Things are turning …. We need to be sure everybody is included as this city recovers from the deep national recession. This success is due to the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of professionals like you.
He commended the NAHCC for their “great reputation on both the regional and the national level.” Under the leadership of Yuri Cunza, President and CEO, Nashville was recently chosen as one of only four US cities for a new pilot program between the Small Business Administration and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The partnership will connect Hispanic small business owners and entrepreneurs with local lenders and business counselors for growth and new jobs. Last May Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, leading advocate for over 3 million Hispanic owned- businesses, likewise praised the NAHCC at their May meeting.

Judge Alberto Gonzales, speaking for Waller who hosted the event, said Hispanic Heritage Month “is a celebration of what’s good and right in America… the diversity that exists in this country.” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Keith Moses, commended contributions of Hispanic Americans working for the FBI as special agents, linguists, analysts, and professional staff:

A diverse workforce gives us deeper connections to the citizens we are sworn to protect…a diverse workforce means we can quite literally talk to and hear from communities that would otherwise be closed to the FBI.

Councilman Fabian Bedne delivered a proclamation presented by Frank Harrison from the Metro Council Minority Caucus recognizing significant social, cultural, and civic contributions in the city, state, and country by Hispanics.

Accepting the Outstanding “Embracing Diversity” Achievement Award for MAPCO Mi Tienda, Tony McLarty, Vice President of Community Relations at Delek, shared his simple secret of growing sales to Hispanic customers by 600%. He asked neighbors in a mile radius of his store what they wanted, then delivered. He advised: “Stop, talk, listen and everyone will see success.”

Maria Mercedes Suarez, owner of El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant, recipient of the Emerging Hispanic Business Award and single mom of four children, said: “I am thankful to God…For other single women I want to be a good example and say, ‘Keep going and one day we’ll reach our goals.’”

Music during the reception was provided by Juan Alonzo who received the Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Artistic Contributions in Support of Causes.  After the ceremony Explosion Negra from Medellin, Colombia rocked the room with their mix of Afro-Colombian music, hip hop and dancehall. Other awards and recipients were as follows:

 Fifth Third Bank--Outstanding ‘Community Building’ Achievement Award

 Mapco Mi Tienda--Outstanding “Embracing Diversity” Achievement Award

 George Uribe of Professional Achievement Award - Media

 Lipscomb University--Outstanding ‘Leadership & Advocacy in Education’ Achievement Award

 El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant--Emerging Hispanic Business Award

 Lourdes Castro--Hispanic Entrepreneur Achievement Award

 Delfine Fox--Outstanding Volunteer Service Award

 The Honorable Walter Hunt, Metropolitan Council of Nashville & Davidson County--NAHCC’s AMIGO Award

 DHPM PC, “Breakfast with the Lawyers”-- Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Contributions to Hispanic Business Literacy

ONE Nashville--Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Contributions in Education Advocacy

NAHCC's 8th Annual Business & Community Awards from AJ Media Services LLC on Vimeo.

Delfine Fox-Russell, Maria Mercedes Suarez, Mario Manuel Ramos, Walter Hunt

Mayor Karl Dean

Photos by Julie Brinker, George Uribe, Holly Spann, Eunice Loraine Segovia Paz, Yarisbet Navarro, Hugo Reyes, La Noticia Newspaper, David Tiller, and Yuri Cunza. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maynard, Bedne, Escobar, Amden, and Duarte share podium, inspire at Council's Minority Caucus Hispanic Heritage Month celebration

The Metropolitan Minority Caucus Council Members with FUTURO Leaders of the TN Latin American Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of TLACC. Used with permission.

by Rebecca Zanolini

On Thursday, September 27, 2012, The Metropolitan Minority Caucus, formerly known as the Black Caucus, held its first event to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month in the state’s capital. The environment was friendly and welcoming to the ethnically and linguistically diverse crowd which came out to support the evening’s event. Councilmen Jerry Maynard and Fabian Bedne welcomed their audience filled with community leaders, students, and professionals with greetings in both English and Spanish. Following the councilmen’s introduction, many other prominent community members addressed the crowd with both personal and professional stories that both motivated and inspired the attendees.

Metropolitan Clerk Ana Escobar spoke about the importance of Latino involvement in local, state, and federal government. José Amden of Asurion Company represented one of many Latino professionals in the business world who is positively impacting the Middle Tennessee community. Dalila Duarte, Futuro Board Member and President of the Tennessee State University Chapter, highlighted Latino influence in Education and the importance of professional student organizations for minority students pursuing post-secondary studies.  Furthermore, the Futuro organization recognized councilman Fabian Bedne for his leadership and support in the program’s initiation with a signed framed photo from members of the student organization that now extends over seven campuses throughout the state.

Councilman Jerry Maynard, also the Metropolitan Minority Caucus President, closed the inaugural event by challenging his audience to be more involved in every aspect of society. In short, Mr. Maynard, Mr. Bedne, Ms. Escobar, Mr. Amden, and Ms. Duarte reminded us all of the power of one and the influence each individual can have on another. The event was truly exciting and inspiring and proved to be yet another example of support for our Latino community both locally and nationally.

Let us all remember this positive message not only during Hispanic Heritage Month, but also throughout the rest of the year and in all facets of our lives.

Contributor Rebecca Zanolini has written for about such diverse subjects as violence against women, Conexion Americas' new home Casa Azafranchildren in migration, the Super Bowl, paying taxes regardless of immigration status, YMCA Latino Achievers, and her own "Costa Rican rebirth."  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jaime Romero joins Cool Springs dental practice, shares family stories from Mexico and U.S.

Dr. Jaime A. Romero, Jr.
Dr. Jaime Arturo Romero, Jr. was born in California on October 26, 1977, lived a part of his childhood in Mexico, worked and studied in East and West Tennessee, studied in Texas, spent time serving in Iraq, and was most recently in residency in Ohio.  This year, as a newly minted oral and maxillofacial surgeon, he moved to Middle Tennessee and joined the thirty-year-old practice of Anthony P. Urbanek D.D.S. M.D., in Cool Springs.

Romero is fluent in Spanish and is a Major in the Tennessee Army National Guard Dental Corp Reserves.

Romero told about his family, working as a child, returning to education, joining the military, and generally how he got to Cool Springs.  "When I look back at my short life, he says, "I realize how lucky I am to be where I am, to have the profession I have and to have the love of my family and friends."

Dr. Romero's story - as he tells it - is below, starting with an introduction to his family. 
The Romero family
Back row (L-R): Jaime Romero (Jr.), Juan, Jesus and Jose
Front row: father Jaime (Sr.) and mother Rosa
My father was born in Santa Barbara, California, and my mother was born in Tijuana, Mexico. 
All of my grandparents were born in Mexico, and many of my uncles and aunts are also from Mexico. My paternal grandfather joined the U.S. Army and that was how my father was born in the U.S. which made things easier for us. Even with U.S. citizenship, my father was raised in Mexico and he met my mother in Tijuana. Once married my mother got her immigration papers and they lived in San Ysidro, California.
No one in my family had a college degree.  In fact, graduating from high school was a rare occurrence.  My mother had a 6th grade education and my father had taken some college courses at a local community college.  
Childhood photos of Jaime Romero
Romero was the oldest of the four sons.  The family spent a few more years in California, but after his youngest brother came along, Romero's parents wanted to be closer to family in Mexico. Romero says his father specifically "wanted us to learn our roots." So the family moved from California to Tijuana, where Jaime Sr. and Rosa had met. The boys proceeded to enroll in school.
I had the normal life that most kids in that area had.  We were poor, but we had a very strong family bond.  Being poor gave me a great appreciation for things. Whenever we had new shoes or clothes it was like Christmas, and by new, I mean hand me downs from friends or family.  
We moved across the country from Tijuana, Mexico (a city south of San Diego) to Montemorelos, Mexico (a city just south of McAllen, Texas) for my father to start college.  What we didn’t know was that this move was the beginning of a struggle that could’ve derailed my dreams. 
Living in a van, 6th grade
I started the 6th grade just like any other kid would.  It was new but I adapted pretty quickly, even though it was different than before. We lived in a van about the size of a UPS van.  It was difficult going from a house to living in a van and from showering in a bathroom to showering outside.  But we did what we had to for my father to get his degree.  Unfortunately, the situation continued to worsen.  Food became very scarce and our living conditions were not improving.  We would skip meals, even though at times a meal was nothing more than animal crackers or beans that were treated with lime to kill any insects living in them.  I remember walking through the orchards of the local farmers and pick green oranges just to have something to eat. 
That winter, half way through my 6th grade and shortly after my 12th birthday, my parents made the decision to move back to the U.S. and start working by planting pine trees for paper companies, lumber companies and private owners.
I started working to help my family survive.  In fact, we all worked.
Jaime (approx. 13 years old) and a brother planting trees
Romero boys, around 8-14 yrs. old;
Jaime is the tall one with a trash bag
over his head and a thick jacket,
to protect himself from bee stings
while harvesting honey
My father became very ill in the harsh winter and the money he was making was barely enough to feed the family.  I was old enough to understand the severity of the situation, but young enough to believe in them and trust that everything would be okay.  We continued to work and in our free time my mother would have us read and do math problems to keep up with our education.  It wasn’t accredited but it was all we had at the moment. 
I stayed out of school for 5 years and continued to work with my family to better our situation.  By the end, we had bought a piece of land with a trailer home that to us felt like a mansion.  By this time - 1994 - I was a 17-year old boy with no real education but a lot of work experience and a will to survive. 
Jaime Romero
High school graduation photo
Romero tells that he promised his grandfather two weeks before he died that he would "go back to school and get a career." In the fall of 1995, he entered a Seventh Day Adventist school called Harbert Hills Academy in Savannah, Tennessee.  He graduated high school the following spring and was accepted to Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas in the fall of 1996, before transferring back to Tennessee in 1998 to save his family money with in-state tuition:
[M]y brother was graduating high school and I knew that the cost of out-of-state tuition would be even more tasking for my family if both of us went out of state. So, I transferred to Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee. While at Bethel College I realized that I needed more money for school because the soccer scholarship I had at the time was not enough.
Romero did some research and found the Army ROTC program at UT Martin, which would pay for school.  He enrolled in the fall of 1999 and earned his college degree in the spring of 2002. Making Romero's graduation that much more meaningful was the fact that another Romero who had been on an intermittent pursuit of education for even longer - his father - graduated college with him.

Romero entered flight school in 2002 and planned to become a helicopter pilot, but in flight school he decided to apply to dental school.  He enrolled in the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry in Memphis in the fall of 2003.
So, I transferred to the Dental Corp sometime around 2004 and that is where I have been serving since. After graduating dental school in May of 2007, I got accepted to an internship in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Cleveland, Ohio. 
I got deployed to Iraq in January of 2008 and returned in May of the same year. I did not pilot any helicopter while in Iraq. My mission in Iraq was to treat the Iraqi detainees. At that time, we had over 23,000 detainees and was the largest prison in the world until it was closed. Even though we were at a more secured post, we would periodically get indirect fire (artillery) from hostile forces around the area, fortunately no american or coalition forces were seriously injured during my time there. Unfortunately, I cannot same the same for some Iraqi civilians in the area. 
Romero in uniform. The helicopters in the background are the ones he used to travel from Kuwait to Iraq. 
All of my brothers served for either the Army or Air Force.  Three of the four have been deployed to Iraq and we are all doing well and continuing to move forward and fight to better our lives.  I guess we have come a long way from living in a van and picking food out of trash cans. 
When asked if I wish things were different I can honestly say that I would not change a thing about my past.  It has made me who I am today and I am still that humble person that is now in a position to help others just as I was helped by many.   
Dr. Jaime Arturo Romero, Jr. is a graduate of the University of Tennessee School of Dentistry and completed his residency at Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  He is a Major in the TN Army National Guard Dental Corp Reserves and was previously deployed to Iraq, serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  With an avid interest in aviation, he has flown helicopters in the Army and completed training in the US Army Airborne and Air Assault School.  He has volunteered service to Give Kids a Smile, Target House, Books for Kids, building parks for kids, and Habitat for Humanity. His other interests include biking, soccer, outdoors, and numerous church activities.  Dr. Romero is also fluent in Spanish.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Great Performances at Vanderbilt Presents La Excelencia

by Cindy McCain

La Excelencia returns to Nashville on Friday, October 12 as part of Vanderbilt University’s Great Performances series.  The world famous New York City salsa dura band will perform at 8:00 PM in Ingram Hall.  A community salsa class free to all ticket holders will be taught at 6:30 prior to the show by Nashville’sGlobal Education Center resident teaching artist, Steven Damo of Sentir El Ritmo.

Latin music fans who attended last year’s National Folk Festival held in Nashville will remember La Excelencia’s electrifying performances. When asked  how his 11-piece orchestra feels about Music City’s 2012 Hispanic Heritage Celebration Month culminating with their concert, Jose Vazquez-Cofresi, founder of the group, replied: 
EXCITED!  We got a taste of Nashville last year and had a great turn out, but by the 3rd or 4th song the rain started pouring down and we did not get to finish the show. La Excelencia is, however,  very blessed that we are able to return to finish the job thanks to Vanderbilt University!
For the full interview with Jose Vazquez-Cofresi, go here.

The band known and enjoyed internationally as “The New Generation of Salsa Dura” has been featured by the BBC, The New York Times, Latin Beat Magazine, So You Think You Can Dance and in motion pictures.   Grammy-winning producer Aaron Levinson says of the group known as “The New Generation of Salsa Dura”:  “La Excelencia represents something very significant, a return not just to the classic formula of salsa but to the virtues of it.  They are going back to the more eclectic period when salsa was street music, playing with spirit and integrity and writing socially relevant music again.”  Vazquez-Cofresi names their top three culturally important songs addressing discrimination and poverty: "Dale Otra Oportunidad and  "La Economia". 

Tickets for the Great Performances series are on sale at Sarratt Student Center.  Full information on discounts for students, seniors, Vanderbilt faculty and groups can be found at  Tickets range from $5 for Vanderbilt students to $30, $35, and $40 for the general public.  Information is also available at the Sarratt Student Center open Sunday–Saturday 10 a.m. – 8p.m, by calling 615.322.4230, and at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Colombia-born Tina Garcia of Nashville a leader in Mars Petcare's U.S. marketing

Tina Garcia and her cat Mittens
Maria Cristina ("Tina") Garcia leads the digital marketing and media team for Mars Petcare US.  Garcia is a native of Bogota, Colombia and lives in Nashville.

Garcia joined Mars' U.S. Petcare division in 2006, the same year it relocated to Middle Tennessee, and has held a variety of roles there including senior brand manager on PEDIGREE® Wet, Exclusive Brands Marketing (EB) director, and now Marketing Services lead. Prior to joining Petcare in 2006, Garcia spent nine years in a variety of brand management and marketing roles with Mars Chocolate, where she worked on TWIX®, SNICKERS®, and MILKY WAY®.

Garcia also had a prominent role in the Ethnic Marketing group, leading the first efforts to target Hispanic consumers at the customer level and developing the first-ever Spanish language advertising on TWIX® and STARBURST®.

Garcia received her undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota. Tina currently lives in Nashville with her husband, daughter, and her cat Mittens and Moonie the fish. Tina is fluent in English and Spanish and enjoys golf, skiing, hiking, travel and cooking.

Garcia is also involved in Pedigree® Adoption Day in Nashville this Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 75 Vaughn Rd. More than 100 dogs will be available for adoption from 14 animal rescue centers. Entertainment for families will include a visit from the Nashville Predators mascot, Gnash.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frequency of "illegal immigrant" higher than similar terms outside immigration beat

The following is my response to Is ‘Illegal Immigrant’ the Right Description? on the Public Editor's Journal blog written by Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of the New York Times.

It’s not the single use but the overuse of the term that is the problem. Out of all reported stories about breaking the law, the immigration beat disproportionately uses and repeats law-tinged labels of the perpetrators.

In headlines outside the immigration beat, the "sin" is more often the story, and not the "sinner."  I've seen this borne out in my hometown newspaper.  Kids killed while breaking the law in a vehicle not meant for on-road use prompt a headline about "golf cart culture," not the kids as wrongdoers.  Illegally causing pain to a Tennessee Walking Horse to modify its gait in competition?  The headline is about the alleged "soring," not the accused.  Medicinal abuse merits an above-the-fold reference to the "pill problem," not "pill poppers."  Even stories about overeating at church harp on gluttony, not "gluttons."

No doubt that the outside the immigration context, stories identify perpetrators with terms like "tax evader," "poachers," and "traffic violators."  A newsroom should ask itself, however, why those labels appear at such a lower ratio of total word count than the legal labels of immigrants in immigration stories.  Once you've seen the difference, it's hard to argue that the difference in justified, much less neutral. 

Mallary Tenore's comment about detail and variation in descriptions is instructive. Increasing the use of words like "deportation" or "visa" might add variety. Questioning the redundancy of any given mention of illegality also helps.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 to October 15; here are some of Nashville's events

Sunday, September 23
Ballet Folklorico in Franklin, TN at the Williamson County Public Library
In honor and celebration of Hispanic Heritage month in the United States which runs from September 15-October 15, the Williamson County Public Library has organized a “Ballet Folklorico” with invited guest, Destellos Culturales de Nashville. According to the group’s website, Destellos Culturales de Nashville is “a non-profit organization from Nashvhille, TN promoting Culture, Art, Health, and Sports.” The event will take place on Sunday, September 23rd with two shows at 2:00pm and 3:30pm. Come and enjoy!
For more information about the Williamson County Public Library, please visit,
For more information about Destellos Culturales de Nashville, please visit,
Event summary by Rebecca Zanolini

Wednesday, September 26
Film: "Granito: How to Nail a Dictator"; Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema at 7:30pm, presented by International Lens and Center for Latin American Studies.
In a stunning milestone for justice in Central America, a Guatemalan court recently charged former dictator Efraín Rios Montt with genocide for his brutal war against the country’s Mayan people in the 1980s.  Pamela Yates’ 1983 documentary "When the Mountains Tremble" provided key evidence for bringing the indictment. "Granito: How to Nail a Dictator" tells the extraordinary story of how a film, aiding a new generation of human rights activists, became a granito — a tiny grain of sand — that helped tip the scales of justice. An Official Selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. A co-production of ITVS with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting.
Watch trailer here.

Thursday, September 27 
“Colores de America Latina” celebrating 150 Anniversary of Battle of Puebla (5 de Mayo),
We will also celebrate the 3rd Graduation of Plaza Comunitaria-Nashville at Catholic Charities, with the presence of the Honorable Consul General of Mexico in Atlanta, GA. Ricardo Cámara Sánchez with traditional music, food, folk art and crafts from Latin American immigrants.
Thursday, September 27th, 2012 5:30 – 7:30 PM “Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church” (GYM) (3112 Nolensville Rd. Nashville, TN 37211)
Plaza Comunitaria-Nashville offers adult literacy programs.
“Immigrants who stay in school have more promising future and help provide a stronger workforce for their communities”
RSVP: Mayra Yu-Morales by e-mail

Thursday, September 27
Metropolitan Minority Caucus' Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Southern Hills Hospital (Holmes Center), 391 Wallace Road, Nashville
RSVP: Rosanne Hayes at

Saturday, October 6
Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival
10 AM to 6 PM at Centennial Park. Admission and parking are free.
In a city where one in six residents is foreign-born, the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival is not only Nashville's favorite and most vibrant cultural festival, but a timely reminder of what makes Nashville a great place to live.
The annual festival brings together over 40 cultures and 60,000 people living in Nashville and surrounding communities, and encourages understanding, appreciation and respect. The 2012 Festival features more than 100 performances on 7 different stages (including the Musician's Corner stage this year!), over 50 food vendors offering exotic tastes from around the world, hands-on children's activities, a marketplace and art bazaar, promotion in over 12 different languages, and more.
Visit for more information. Click here to see photos of the event Festival Area Descriptions: THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
Be transported around the world...right here in Nashville! Presented by Nashville Metro Human Relations, the Global Village offers an authentic look at the customs and traditions of the participating cultures that are present within the City of Nashville and the surrounding counties. As you walk through, you'll hear traditional music in the background as the native language of each area is spoken. You'll see clothing, instruments, and other artifacts that are customary for each country. A center stage in The Global Village showcases talents & traditions. The Global Village has included countries such as Panama, India, Ethiopia, Japan, China, Madagascar, Kurdistan, Norway, Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador and more!
The World Market is filled with booths selling unique hand-crafted and imported items from around the world. Walking through the World Market you may also see how some of these items are made while enjoying music from the World Market Stage. Further, the World Market is a gathering place for various nonprofits and service organizations that support and benefit the diversity in our community.
An area just for teenagers as seen through the eyes of teenagers! This area is organized by the Oasis Center, and teens from our community display information reflective of their heritage and their current lifestyle. Music and dance performances are ongoing throughout the day on the Teens United Stage.
The Children's Area is a highly interactive area that has something for every age! Other activities include a Maypole, "dress up" with costumes from the Metro Parks Theater Department, painting, games and demonstrations of cricket, bocce, and soccer, storytelling, nature activities, puppet shows, hands-on art and much more! The Children's Area Stage will have interactive music and dance programs throughout the day.
New this year, Metro Nashville Arts Commission is hosting an area that will feature local artisans and crafters selling unique, hand-crafted arts and crafts that represent Nashville's diverse cultural landscape.
AND, OF COURSE, THE FOOD! Where else can you sample everything from empanadas and falafels to "hot chicken," from injera (Ethiopian bread) and gyros to Mexican popsicles all in one place? Discover exotic flavors of diversity priced right for sampling and enjoyment!
Food Vendor, Non-profit, Artist, and Marketing booth spaces are still available. Contact for more information.

The much-awaited cooking-contest at Vol State's Fall Fiesta, where the public can taste the entries
Saturday, October 20
Vol State "Fall Fiesta"
Hispanic music, food, and art will take center stage in Volunteer State Community College for the Fall Fiesta. This is the sixth year of the free community event that celebrates hispanic culture.
"We highlight the culture of many countries that make up what we call Hispanic culture," said Eric Melcher, Communications Coordinator. "We have a contest of typical foods of different countries. After the judges' decision, the public can try the food." That contest begins at 11 a.m.  In addition, there will be a lunch and free drinks at noon.
The dance group Hispano América will lead a dance class for festival attendees.  Entertainment will also include El Karaoke, and an exhibition soccer tournament of 5-person teams, for which there is a 9am registration deadline.
The Fall Fiesta at Vol State is scheduled for Saturday, October 20 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m, rain or shine, on the campus of Volunteer State Community College, 1480 Nashville Pike in Gallatin. Free and open to the whole community.  Families are invited to bring picnic blankets and chairs and spend the day with us.  For more information, call 615-230-3570 in English, or in Spanish at 615-230-4846.

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