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.

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