|Design of Caza Azafrán facade. Source: Conexión Américas. Used with permission.|
Nashville’s immigrant population is expanding, and so is Conexión Américas. The April 21 groundbreaking of its soon to be headquarters, Casa Azafrán, marked the 10th anniversary of its existence.
David Esquivel, board member of Conexión Américas, says that “it’s about time.” Conexión’s current headquarters sits off of Music Row, a location that doesn’t allow the visibility to the people that it aims to serve. “We needed more space and better facilities. We exceeded capacity three years ago. We had multiple offices sharing one room. There was no place to meet clients and no space for expanding the staff or growing the program,” says Esquivel, “The immigrant population has grown a lot in the past 10 years, and their need has grown with it.”
Casa Azafrán will be more than equipped to meet these needs. Language classes, afterschool programs, business services, legal consultation, counseling, and even a community kitchen are all advertised on the small blue signs hanging from the ceiling. According to Esquivel, “We’re doing a lot to broaden the scope of services, change the way we interact with the community, encourage people to work for themselves. Hispanics are huge food entrepreneurs. All this commercial grade equipment is to help start and grow businesses. We’re trying to integrate them into the social, political and economic situation in Nashville. Giving them the tools to get up on their own feet is a big step towards that.”
Conexión has also grown in its ability to attract major supporters, including HCA, the Frist Foundation, State Farm, and many others who were all present at the ceremony. The event also drew heavy television coverage, political celebrities, and a sizeable crowd, something that “probably couldn’t have happened a few years ago, all these people wouldn’t have fit under one roof.”
The new building is located on a main bus line, close to an area heavily populated with immigrants of all types. “I think it will be the link between downtown Nashville and Nolensville Road”, says Esquivel. “This building was actually built for retail, but we’re making it into so much more. It will make us accessible and prepared in a way that we’ve never been before. It’s close to the community.”
|Executive Director Renata Soto and board member David Esquivel hold two of the bricks laid at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Ralph Noyes.|