Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fani's story, written well (without crutch of two-word legal label)

Beyond the subject matter itself, what impressed me most about Heidi Hall's recent story in the Tennessean about the immigration struggle of Fani Gonzalez was how Hall wrote it.

Specifically, Hall used a full complement of the English language.

Hall, General Assignment Reporter/Editor at the Tennessean, did not fall into the in vogue trap of the immigration beat of U.S. journalism, which would be to disproportionally and monotonously use a two-word legal label* to describe Gonzalez throughout the story.

Hall's story avoids that misstep**, and her lede exemplifies this better route:
Three times, Fani Gonzalez packed a suitcase, clutched her daughters in a tearful goodbye and begged the Virgin of Guadalupe for a miracle — anything, just anything, that could keep her from being deported back to her violent home city in Mexico.
From these 41 introductory words, the reader learns Gonzalez's name and some hints of her family, religion, immigration status, and nationality. It's information and color, not monotony.

Writing like this needs to return to the immigration beat. Kudos to Hall.

*either "undocumented immigrant" or "illegal immigrant"
**The words "undocumented immigrant" show up 5 times in Hall's 1461-word piece and describe Gonzalez's family only once.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ten years of

Ten years ago today, the first stories appeared on  A decade already - wow.

Some of the stories from the first few days are still reverberating today.  One was, "Conexion Americas wins Best New Entrepreneurial Venture in Nashville Scene's Best of Nashville 2003 Awards."  The next day: "Attorney Ana Escobar ranks second in Nashville Bar Association rating of candidates for Davidson County General Sessions Judge."  There was even a story about possible minority contracting opportunities in conjunction with the Nashville Sounds' latest downtown stadium proposal.

Today, a decade later, Conexion Americas' commercial kitchen Mesa Komal is winning its own entrepreneurial honors in the 2013 edition of Best of Nashville; Ana Escobar, now Metro Clerk, is about to join the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts as its deputy director; and the Sounds are still planning a new stadium downtown.

Also over the last ten years, the state has gone from letting all Tennessee immigrants buy car insurance, to restricting access based on immigration status, to issuing a certificate that made it broadly possible again to buy insurance, to eliminating the certificate, and then allowing insurance again - but only for young people with work permits.  Ah, politics.

Speaking of which, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition also celebrates its 10th anniversary this year - this Saturday, in fact.  Details here.  (TIRRC's founding led to the first grassroots, statewide voice on the drivers license issue.) looks forward to telling more of Nashville's stories in the decade to come. There are new interviews in the pipeline, contributing authors joining the fun (anyone can apply), and a Music City still writing its Latin "record."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Bridges" helps domestic violence's Spanish-speaking victims in Williamson County

Hispanic and Latina victims and survivors of domestic violence in Williamson County can turn to Bridges Domestic Violence Center, which serves approximately five Spanish-speaking clients and their children each month.

Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men, according to one study. Intimate partner violence impacts one in four women in the U.S.

October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Verizon Wireless recently sent information about its HopeLine campaign to get cell phones to abuse victims and funds to shelters and similar organizations (more on that below).  Verizon was also nice enough to connect to Bridges' bilingual outreach worker Erica Roe-Fehrman, who tells her story and the story of Bridges and its clients below:
Bridges has provided Spanish bilingual services since September 2007 that include answering crisis calls, safety planning and information on the dynamics of domestic violence, working with local law enforcement in crisis intervention, emergency shelter, residential case management, resumes and job search assistance for those in shelter, as well as case management for those transitioning into independent living from our shelter. We also provide assistance with Orders of Protection in Williamson County, resourcing and referrals for community agency assistance, ESL classes, counseling/therapy, Legal Aid, and referrals for immigration assistance with the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. 
In the past year, we have served clients who originated from about 8 different countries. Many of these clients are from Spanish-speaking countries. Our role is to provide trauma-informed services and a safe place for clients to make complex decisions and regain control of their life. For Spanish-speaking clients, their barriers to a life free of violence can include a range of issues. Some issues they specifically face can include things like being highly educated with degrees from universities in other countries that are not recognized by many employers, an extremely isolated life from an abusive partner who allows no access to English classes, their immigration status being threatened or used against them by an abusive partner, not knowing how to access community resources or not having a support system of family for assistance. 
Erica Roe-Fehrman
Bilingual Outreach Advocate
Bridges Domestic Violence Center
I have worked at Bridges for close to four years and for the past two years have served as the Outreach Advocate and Spanish-speaking Advocate.  My educational background is a BS in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on Cultural Geography and Latin American Studies. My focus included issues in race, class, gender, socioeconomic barriers and forms of everyday violence. I also studied four years of Spanish and conducted field research on barriers faced by Spanish-speaking migrant farm workers in Appalachia. I am not a certified translator/interpreter or a native speaker but continually strive to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate program services to our clients who speak Spanish. Working in advocacy and empowerment is something I dreamed of while earning an education. To be able to do this on a daily basis in my community is an incredible experience and I feel that I learn much more from the courageous clients I work with than they learn from me.
Verizon Wireless, which has grant-funded program services at Bridges and provided its shelter clients with HOPE phones and calling cards for victims and survivors, is encouraging the community to donate no-longer-used wireless devices, with the proceeds going to support for victims of domestic abuse. The program has collected over 10 million phones since its inception in 2001, creating $18.1 million in cash grants for domestic violence agencies.

HopeLine currently supports several domestic violence agencies in Tennessee with free phones and wireless service for use by their clients. In addition to Bridges, HopeLine also supports Genesis House, Inc., Knoxville Family Justice Center and Legal Aid of East Tennessee.

“The statistics are consistently staggering: One in four women, one in seven men and more than 3 million children are affected by domestic violence each year,” said Jerry Fountain, president for Verizon Wireless in the Carolinas and Tennessee. “Seemingly small efforts—like donating an old phone—can make a difference in supporting families affected by domestic violence.”

HopeLine collection boxes are located at every Verizon Wireless store, and phones can be also be donated by mail using a pre-paid postage label. For more information, visit

Bridges Domestic Violence Center is the only domestic violence program in Williamson County and primarily serves victims and survivors living in Williamson County. Shelter services are also provided to victims fleeing violence from other counties and states when space is available.

Bridges' Spanish-language flyer is here, and Verizon's Spanish-language flyer for HopeLine is here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

FUTURO kicks off third academic year

Group photo, fall 2012 FUTURO conference
By Rebecca Zanolini, Ed.S.

With Latinos increasingly represented on Tennessee’s college campuses as first-time freshmen and first-generation college students, campus organization FUTURO begins the 2013-2014 academic year on seven Tennessee campuses: MTSU, TSU, Lipscomb, Trevecca, Tennessee Tech, Nashville State, Austin Peay, and Volunteer State.

Read below about opportunities to get involved in FUTURO, including two later this month.

Founded in 2011 by Ann Gillespie, CEO of Prolingua Inc., Jessie Garcia Knowles, Caroline Bizot, and State Farm, and inspired by Latino Achievers, a program of the YMCA run by Carol Seals and Kathleen Fuchs, FUTURO is a program of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, with a mission "to be intentional with the development of young Latino leaders as they chart their course from college to career.”

The idea is to prepare students for the professional workplace and beyond, with an emphasis on academic success, community service, professional skills development, networking, and mentorship.

As the faculty advisor for FUTURO at Nashville State Community College, I can speak personally about the positive impact our chapter has had on our campus. Starting in the fall 2012, I worked with Admissions Recruiter Chelsee Gray to establish the campus chapter, and the students quickly took to leadership roles and organized several campus and community events. We hold weekly meetings for one hour, and one of our projects is to partner with the career center on campus to do a variety of things like take "strengths" test to see what career might be a good fit, do mock interviews, receive resume writing assistance, and overall career suggestions.

As volunteers, last December we held a holiday/Christmas party for the special needs students at Glencliff High School. GHS is a feeder school to NSCC and has a large Latino student population, and many of our members are GHS graduates. We also volunteered with the Metro Nashville Police Department to help out at the spring community soccer fair and the summer community baby shower. There, we did everything from interpreting (most of my student members are bilingual) to handing out products and tickets, to anything else asked of us. We will be volunteering again on September 21 with the MNPD for the large community Hispanic Heritage Festival in Nashville.

Our work was so appreciated on campus that our chapter won the Student Life, “Organization of the Year” Award for the 2012-2013 academic year. Many of our members kept in touch over the summer planning events and opportunities for the upcoming semesters.

This year - our chapter's second year in existence - we plan on working on mentoring and networking. Students have had the opportunity to meet professionals who support our program, but we want to take it one step further this year by forging intentional mentoring relationships with community professionals and FUTURO members. Furthermore, many of the members have expressed interest in becoming mentors themselves either with YLA or other area Latino high school students.

Beyond the NSCC chapter, FUTURO gathers all chapters together twice a year for a professional workshop conference. Our fall conference is coming up on September 28. Influential professionals with a Latino interest come and speak to the students and help us during our break out sessions. For example, Metro Councilman Fabian Bedne spoke at our inaugural conference.

Students interested in joining a FUTURO group, establishing a chapter on your campus, or interested in serving as a mentor may e-mail Araceli Vazquez at

Contributor Rebecca Zanolini, Ed.S. is an Instructor of Spanish and Faculty Advisor to FUTURO of Nashville State Community College. She 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, Williamson County Librarian Lupe Veloz, and her own "Costa Rican rebirth."  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Miss Tennessee Latina 2013 Leyanet Gonzalez competes in national pageant this week

Miss Tennessee Latina 2013
Leyanet Gonzalez
Photo used with permission.
Miss Tennessee Latina 2013 Leyanet Gonzalez is competing this week for the Miss Latina US title in Riviera Maya, with the finals to be held this Saturday, August 24, at the Palenque Theatre Barceló Maya Beach Resort. The national titleholder advances to the Miss Latin America pageant. The 2013 national pageant can be followed on the pageant site here and on the pageant's Facebook page here.

Gonzalez was crowned in May at the state pageant in Clarksville.

Gonzalez, 20 years old, was born in Cuba, grew up in Dalton, Georgia, and is a student at South College in Knoxville, where she is studying radiography with a concentration in nuclear medicine. "Miss" category runners-up included Yesenia Quinos of Chattanooga, Ana Maria Castaneda of Nashville, and Stephanie Amezcua of Clarksville. The category age bracket is from 19 to 27.

Daniela Martinez of Franklin was crowned Miss Teen Tennessee Latina 2013 at the state pageant in May, as well. Martinez is a senior at Franklin High School (Class of 2014), is a member of the National Honors Society and the French and English Honors Society, and is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. "Miss Teen" runners-up included Kaila Saira Jones of Clarksville, Valeria Garcia of Antioch, Angela Perez of Nashville, and Bryanna Canales of Clarksville. The teen category is for 13- to 18-year-olds.

Miss Teen Tennessee Latina 2013
Daniela Martinez
Photos used with permission.
In the 2012 election edition of her high school's student newspaper, Martinez wrote a guest column, "Waiting in Line for the American Dream."

Hats off to State Directors Mildred Veron & Vicky Shuler, who took over the pageant in 2011. From the pageants' Facebook presence, it appears that the title holders have been spreading the word. Veron tells that the state pageants in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama teamed up to promote their titleholders as the "Queens of the South."  The Georgia coordinators also run the pageants in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Veron and Shuler are looking at organizing Kentucky, as well.

There are at least two newspaper profiles of Gonzalez worth your time - the first appeared in the Dalton Daily Citizen - it's a great story, written by Christopher Smith, and it starts out like this:
She doesn’t remember it, but Leyanet Gonzalez said she came to Miami from Cuba on a small boat when she was an infant. 
“My mom said it was scary, that there was nothing but flat water for days,” said Gonzalez, now 20, of Dalton. “She said there was no way to know where you were. We had to go towards the Gulf of Mexico then to Miami to avoid the main currents. The Coast Guard expected us to go that way.” 
Now a legal citizen since 2000, Gonzalez says she does her best to make her family, still in Dalton, proud. That means straight A’s, attending South College in Knoxville as a junior, pursuing medical school, and on May 18, winning the Miss Tennessee Latina pageant in Clarksville, Tenn.
The second was published by the Knoxville News-Sentinel, written by Alex Thomason, and here is an excerpt:
She also draws strength from her brother, who struggled to speak English in school when the family came to the U.S. Today, he is in his third year of pharmacy school at Belmont University. 
Gonzalez said pageants allow her to feel empowered and use that strength for the betterment of young people. She entered her first beauty pageant on a whim at age 20 and was awarded runner-up. The second contest was Miss Tennessee Latina.
You also have to love for its story giving props to the beauty queen's parents Leonel Gonzalez and Julia Pujol.

The Facebook pages for the two state pageant categories and also the national pageant are here:

Previous winners of the state pageant can be found here. The face of the pageant from May 2012 to May 2013 was Miss Teen Latina Tennessee 2012 Karen Renee Valencia of LaVergne. Karen is an honors student at LaVergne High School and a member of the school chapter of Health Occupational Students of America. She plans to attend Vanderbilt University and study medicine, in hopes of becoming an OB/GYN.

Read more about Miss Tennessee Latina 2013 Leyanet Gonzalez in profiles published by the Dalton Daily Citizen and the Knoxville News-Sentinel

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

English class makes house calls with new mobile classroom

by Ralph Noyes

ESL classes, commonly restricted to church basements, private homes, and other temporary or ill-equipped places, are now being brought to the people who need them.

The ESL To Go truck, Tennessee’s first mobile ESL classroom, celebrated its unveiling June 22 in Nashville’s East-Centric Pavilion. The four hour event included a plethora of international food, Burmese dancing, live salsa music by Revolfusion, and speeches by Mayor Karl Dean and Gatluak Thach, Executive Director of Nashville International Center for Empowerment.

The 12-seat, fully equipped, climate-controlled truck sat outside while people walked in and out. Leah Hashinger, Tenneessee Foreign Language Institute Instructor and co-creator of the project, sat inside and discussed how the idea came about.

“There was a meeting held at the Tennessee Office for Refugees where they discussed the top barriers that refugees had in getting to English classes. Why aren’t they coming? They realized that they couldn’t get there,” she explains.

The vehicle serves several apartment complexes with refugee resettlement communities in the south Nashville area along Nolensville road, and hopes to expand to Gallatin road by the end of the Summer. Half a dozen TESL Certified teachers work on the truck, giving two-hour lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the Burmese, Iraqi, Somali, Vietnamese, and Congalese refugees in the area. On “Special Interest Fridays”, the truck is reserved for community outreach projects ranging from health screenings to workshops.

“We want to provide them with the tools for a faster, easier integration into Nashville,” says Janice Rodriguez, TFLI’s Executive Director, “What we did was to create a dialogue with the refugee community about what they needed. That’s what it takes, and this was our answer. It will be a paradigm shift in the way that English classes are delivered.”

Individuals and community organizations interested in reserving the truck should contact Janice Rodriguez, at janice at

Voice of America also published a profile of the ESL To Go program in Nashville, here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Party and Free Books at Nashville Film Fest

Post Tenebras Lux
by Cindy McCain
Free books tonight and a party tomorrow are part of the fun at the Nashville Film Festival. Tonight at 9 PM is the Music City feature screening of  Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War! The film is a documentary by Jesse Acevedo on the arrest of the Cruz brothers and the censorship of rap duo, Los Aldeanos. As a volunteer for World Book Night, I will be at the screening and give away 20 free copies of Ray Bradbury's classic on censorship, Fahrenheit 451. 

Then on Wednesday, April 24th, The Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will host a party  to celebrate Hispanic films and filmmakers following the 6:30 showing of Post Tenebras Lux at the Regal Green Hills Cinema.  Filmmakers, actors, Nashville Film Festival attendees and the public are invited to meet and mingle from 8 PM - 10 PM at Alegria Mexican Restaurant. Please

Post Tenebras Lux won Carlos Reygadas the Best Director award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.  It is the story of Juan and his urban family trying to live in the Mexican countryside.  Can the two worlds coexist or will they eliminate one another?

One of the nineteen Hispanic-interest films showing at the Nashville Film Festival this year will be awarded Best Hispanic Film of 2013, an award co-sponsored annually by the NAHCC.  For a complete list of Hispanic films at NaFF go here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nashville 2012 Tonight at Nashville Film Fest

Nashville 2012, a Tennessee First selection, was a perfect choice for opening night of the 2013 NashvilleFilm Festival.  The eight-day event promising “Something for Everyone” provided a forum for this patchwork piece of our city’s communities. When an audience member asked directors/producers Jace Freeman and Sean Clark what they found most surprising when making the film about their city, Freeman quickly reflected and replied, “Its diversity.”
Threaded by dates, stand-alone, engaging stories from their internet channel, Nashville Docujournals,   were woven together by seamless unperformances—people simply and consistently being themselves.  
The Moving Picture Boys, Freeman and Clark, define docujournals as “stories told in the present tense from the perspective of an individual affected by the headline news of the day.”  With this first film, their mission-- “to connect local communities to find common goals and increase our understanding of each other”—is accomplished.  But in giving us the faces of those who occupy Nashville, there are face-offs, starting with those for and against the Occupy Nashville movement.
“You are not good neighbors,” says a resident stonewalled by unmoved builders of 12 South Lofts. Though his battalion of backers lost the battle against the four-story conglomeration of condos, some who fought to make Middle Tennessee home won.   Immigrant families celebrated the opening of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.  But while Hispanic kids discuss feeling “protected” under the Deferred Action for Deportation for Childhood Arrivals, they are concerned that some of their parents and other relatives are not.  One student voices frustration with those who assume immigrants don’t pay taxes.  He says most do and receive no benefits other than education, though at the college level, they must pay out-of-state tuition.  
In 2013 Freeman and Clark plan to dig deeper into communities covered in the film. For more on the documentary that will screen again tonight at 9:45 go here.  Tickets can be purchased here or at the lower level of Green Hills Theater. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nashville Film Festival April 18-25

Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War! is a documentary on music censorship in Cuba.
by Cindy McCain

This Thursday Nashville will go on an eight-day World Tour of fifty countries via  250 films. The 44th Annual Nashville Film Festival l(NaFF) will run from April 18-25, 2013 at the Green Hills Theater. 

Acclaimed World Cinema films presented include Kon-Tiki (Norway) and Post Tenebras Lux (Mexico)Kon-Tiki (Directors Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg), Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Film, is the story of legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal's epic 4,300 miles crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in 1947. His mission? To prove it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. Post Tenebras Lux is a Mexican film whose director, Carlos Reygadas, won Best Director at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Hispanic narrative shorts include The Companion and Behind the Mirrors (both from Peru) and A World for Raul (Mexico). Hispanic feature films include Here Comes the Devil (Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano) and Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War! (Director Jesse Acevedo) and (Pablo Stoll). Here Comes the Devil which swept the Texas fest's horror prizes last fall. It is the story of parents whose children are lost on a family trip near caves in Tijuana. When they reappear without explanation, clearly they are not who they used to be.

Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War! is a Music City feature from the USA and Cuba directed by Jesse Acevedo. In a small town outside of Havana, two kids—the Cruz brothers—are beaten up in their own home by the police for listening to the music of Los Aldeanos. Risking his freedom and his life, documentary filmmaker Jesse Acevedo takes the viewer inside the revolution brewing within Cuba. Using hidden cameras, he exposes a society where people live in fear and where the Cruz brothers were wrongfully taken into custody. The film centers on an emotional interview the brothers’ mother and asks if Los Aldeanos will be the lost voice of a lost generation, or the sound of the future. 3 is a comedy from Uruguay about “three people condemned to the same, absurd fate: being a family.”
NaFF, whose presenting sponsor is Nissan North America, is one of only 42 film festivals worldwide whose picks for the Best Short Narrative and Animation competitions automatically qualify recipients for Academy Award. More than $37,000 plus television broadcasting contracts will be awarded to innovative filmmakers, including prizes for Tennessee directors, best film by a black filmmaker, and best Hispanic film. NaFF partners year- round with local cultural and ethnic groups and provides programs for senior citizens, challenged teens and student filmmakers.

“Because of our Academy Award qualifier status, we tend to receive an impressive amount of short film entries each year,” said Artistic Director, Brian Owens. “This year we had more submissions than ever before. The films we selected represent every corner of the world, from the United Kingdom, Israel, and Spain to Slovenia, China, and Iraq. It will be like a mini World Cinema category with ten times as many films!”

For the Festival schedule and ticket purchases go to Tickets will also be available at the NaFF Box Office in the downstairs lobby of Regal Green Hills Cinema, which opens April 17. Regular ticket price per film $12, college students and senior citizens with ID $8, and member prices from $4 to $7 off each ticket. Tuesday, April 23, NaFF will host a free event: “an epic battle for movie geek supremacy.” At 8:00 PM at the Crow's Nest located at 2221 Bandywood Dr. teams can win 10 film vouchers ($120 value), plus $50 in Crow's Nest gift cards.

For more information including descriptions of eight special feature presentations and a NaFF slideshow, go here.
In 3 an unhappily remarried father tries to get back into the home and lives of his daughter and ex-wife.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

At Belcourt Theater, Just Say NO

by Cindy McCain

Say “yes” to seeing No, showing at the Belcourt Theater  through April 18. The Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film that drove audiences to stand in ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last May is moving Nashville to sit down in discussion now.  No chronicles a historical hope-based marketing campaign to release Chile from Pinochet’s regime.   Director Pablo Larrain says the movie’s theme is “defeating horror through happiness.” 

 No takes risks reminiscent of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful by juxtaposing violence and fear with joy and optimism.  It reiterates that the pen— or media “spin”—can be mightier than the sword.  It proclaims the power of people to choose change, to say NO to oppression or the status quo, to do what’s right today regardless of a troubled past or unsure tomorrow.

In 1973 after being promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army by President Allende, Pinochet led a coup to overthrow the socialist government.  By 1988, mounting international concern over human rights violations— 3,000 murders,  thousands of accounts of “disappearances,” torture and exile—pressured Pinochet to call for a referendum.  The people would vote YES or NO to eight more years of his presidency.   His YES men and censors controlled the media.  Voters feared the secret police.  Confident of victory, the dictator offered the opposition fifteen minutes of airtime to make their case.

In the NO camp sixteen political parties unite and choose René Saavedra (GAEL GARCíA BERNAL of The Motorcycle Diaries) to steer them.  Saavedra’s savvy in marketing and professional detachment prompts him to reject footage documenting the atrocities inflicted by Pinochet’s power.  Rather than airing beatings, he offers balloons.   Rather than a battle cry, he orders a jingle

But despite his cool composure, Saavedra is on the front lines.  He’s watched by the secret police and his boss, Lucho Guzman (ALFREDO CASTRO), one of Pinochet’s advisers.  He is also fighting for his family.  His estranged wife, Verónica Caravajal (ANTÓNIA ZEGERS) is a radical, too spent and angry to raise her son or believe the election isn't fixed. 

After viewing the movie this week with a group of Chilean friends, I was invited to onces (tea) at the home of Jose Loyola (who Pinochet knew by name) and Dorothy Sek (who grew up in Communist Poland).  Other guests were Pablo Bodini (who served in the Chilean military/ lived in Santiago during the Allende and Pinochet years) and Fresia Ninhauser (who flew to Chile after sixteen years of living in New York to vote“No” ).   We gathered over bread, avocado, queso fresco con paprika, meat, sweets,  and Fresia’s brew—strong, she says, because of her Arabic roots--to  process the movie and memories of the Allende and Pinochet years. 

Fresia:   I went back to Chile in ’74 and I saw how my best friend and everything was.   We knew lots of people who were killed.  I had a friend and they took every single nail from his hands and toes. He was into politics. He said he preferred they burn him to the pain of that.  They tortured him for years. My father also economically went down the drain with Pinochet. So there were a lot of things.  I felt morally obligated.  I went all the way (in 1988) to make sure I gave my vote. Every vote counts. I spent a lot of money on that one vote.

Jose:  It was expensive! I like the movie. The movie takes me back to when for the first time in years you can see on tv someone saying something against the regime.  It was unbelievable. Those 15 minutes the streets were totally empty because every night everyone wondered, “What are they going to show?”  It was real nice and exciting.  Every day it was something so new just to see the truth in an open media. We knew the truth from illegal, underground newspapers…the crimes, the tortures-- but in the official news only talk about the economy--nothing about the crimes. 
I mentioned I’d seen Post Mortem—the second film in Lorrain’s trilogy on the Pinochet era—about a coroner’s assistant who falsifies records of autopsies to cover for the regime’s murders.  

Jose: A lot of people knew that, but the official media said nothing happened.  A lot of people like my family believed the official media. When I told them, ‘Hey, this is what all happened,’ they said, ‘No, no. The Communists invent all these things.’
Jose had been drafted, then chosen after a background check to serve Pinochet meals when he came on the military base:

He called me by my name. For good or bad luck with me, I got in with the officials.  I wore a suit. I had long hair (for the military) and white gloves to serve Pinochet and the big generals. I learned cuisine and how to serve drinks.   He didn't drink.  Imagine if he had.  We said, ‘The walls have ears.’ You never knew who was listening.
 He remembered when another waiter cursed in awe at the size of the limousines that pulled up with the ‘old man’ and his generals:  "A security guard grabbed my friend from behind to take him to jail.  Our boss said, ‘He’s one of my kids and was just excited.’  They let him go.”
Pablo:  But this is what you have to think about.  With Allende I remember walking on the street and making the lines.  I was 13 years old and I was instructed, ‘Whatever you find, you just sit there. You buy whatever they are selling. You bring that stuff home and we’ll switch it with something else.' I was from a middle class family.  So on the one hand, Pinochet killed and tortured, but poor people—you saw the maid in the movie--they were better off. They had access to things they had never had. So what do you do?  You mess with politics-especially if you were on the left—and you get into trouble. Or you believe whatever you want to believe. You believe the press and have food on the table when you had to struggle beforehand. That was the dichotomy of the whole dictatorship.  It’s very hard, very hard to judge. Depending on the side you were, it was black or white.  On NPR they said when Pinochet died there were 2 demonstrations.  One for and one against.
Fresia: I do have to tell you one thing.   You know I don’t drink. I told you I don’t drink at all.  But when he died, yes, I did drink. I got a glass of white wine and I was very happy!
Pablo:  That’s fine. Everybody’s story is different and that’s what makes it interesting.
 Jose:  When Allende died and Pinochet got the power, my father opened a bottle of champaign because, for him, it was the end of his persecution. My father was the president of the opposition against Allende. They (Allende’s forces) had a secret police. And those guys just kicked our door in one night looking for him to kill him. People don’t believe that…I say, ‘Believe it or not, that’s what happened.’  The secret police were looking for my father. He’d have to hide for months and months. He had tractor companies and there were strikes because people who owned their own business don’t like Allende.  My father was president of the whole union of tractor trailers. They were looking for him to kill him. So my father had to wear guns.  He’d disappear for months, then come home with a beard. People don’t believe that.  But I lived that.... Fresia knew what was happening during Pinochet’s time because she was in the US. In Chili everything went to the censors. All we saw on official tv was about the progress.
Pablo:  It’s not about not believing (the truth). It’s about not wanting to believe it. The same thing with Germany and the Jews because they had food on the table. The economy was getting better.
 Jose: Yes, like the nanny in the movie, a simple lady.  She was for the YES because she was ok, her kids were ok. The country was stable and no crime. So people loved this.  My father would say maybe some of those atrocities are real, but they deserve it.  Of course there were terrorists who hurt innocent people. But when I went to college I was told that some people rebelling were not terrorists. They were people starving.   My impression was the movie was correct.  I liked the movie. I enjoyed it.  It took me back home. The language, it was so natural. Even the way they made the movie was so realistic with the old cameras. (Lorrain used a 1983 camera so that shots and historical footage merged flawlessly.)
Pablo:  What I really liked about the movie that was amazing was how they were able to recreate the tension. The persecutions. Like when they came and they took the woman out of the marketing company and hit her.  They hit  people…that tension was there. We all lived that. …For example, I had a friend that the whole family was leftist, a Catholic organization that gave refuge to people running away.  I would study at his house and his sister would come to him and whisper.  I knew there was something going on in the house. They were able to recreate that tension that was there at all times. The relationship between the partners—one working for YES and one for the NO.  At any time…The bottom line is Pinochet screwed up.  He thought he was going to win.
I said I understood the man in the movie who left the marketing meeting because he felt ads with picnics and ponies were frivolous.  He had lost loved ones. They deserved respect and people needed to see the truth.  He said Chile was not a happy place.  But  Savaadra believed  it could be.  The end would justify the means because lives depended on it.  They had to win, and he knew how to do it.  I said Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful took a similar risk when he used comedy and a child’s game in a Holocaust story. 

Fresia: Oh, I loved that movie!  I cried so much.
Dorothy:  I loved it, too.  It was the difference between the blackness of the situation and the light. Putting the comedy and drama together was risky but powerful.
 Pablo:  We can laugh now. No one in the movie asked who was for yes and who was for no. But you do have to know the person before opening up even now.
Jose:  At my old job I met a guy from Chile. He was military. He said, ‘Pinochet was the best. Don’t say nothing against him if you want to keep good relations with me. I said, ‘What about the torture?’ He said, ‘I don’t care. They deserved it. I had two uncles who were put in jail after Pinochet left by the Communists.  They are in prison and they’ve never killed nobody.’  Then he said, ‘I’m sorry. That’s me.’
Pablo:  It’s still going to take a few generations.  I don’t know if you heard but there was a reconciliation committee.  They had a period of time when anyone could go and claim abuses. They tried to prosecute some of the most serious ones. At least they were able to quantify how much was the damage from a human perspective.
Dorothy:  This (US) is probably the only country in the world where the conflict isn’t about ethnic difference. It’s about politics. In other countries religion and politics are intertwined. When you have an ethnic difference you will have a religious difference that adds fire to it. In Poland the Polish people got tired of Russians crossing over –every time the Polish government tried to do something different—the Soviets would send the troops over the border to ‘calm down’ things so nothing would happen outside of the Communist idea. So, it was never a conflict in the country. The blame was on the outsider. Whereas here the conflict is within.
I grew up in Communist Poland after WWII. WWII gave Poland away to the Communist regime and Poland was under foot of Soviet Union all those years.   After WWII that German uniform is so deeply…it’s a brain wash thing. When I was in Chile and saw those uniforms I was distraught. My old prejudices kicked in. I grew up with an aversion to the military. It was used against people. People were drafted whether they agreed with communism or not. 
Jose: Some felt so good with Pincochet because he gave to the country a pride because he never took shit. I’m sorry. But when Argentina tried to get our territory, he said, ‘If you put one boot on that island, I will put the whole army on you.’  Nationalism.  It’s a way dictators get more sympathy.
Fresia pointed out the irony that Pinochet was known for his “No!”  One such case was when a pop group tried to return from exile and he refused to allow them to get off the plane.  But in the end the people said, ‘No more.’

I said how timely the movie is given Pablo Neruda’s body was exhumed this week to determine whether he was poisoned for political reasons.  I said I loved the line spoken by a YES man as he saw the success of the NO productions:  “All the artists are with them.”  Pablo and I shared a favorite scene.  Both a man being clubbed and the policeman beating him were labeled “Chileans" and the text noted they both wanted the same thing: peace.  

Fresia said, “I think to really understand the movie you have to be Chilean. Seriously.” 

I can’t imagine living under a regime.  But I did leave the theater singing, “Chile, la alegría ya viene” (“Chile, the joy/happiness is coming”).  I said that maybe the graphic images documenting Pinochet's abuse of power would not have won the vote because we tend to deny what we feel we should not or can not change.  I said I was reminded of my childhood when violent coverage of civil rights protesters --battered and arrested—by Southern police were served with supper by the nightly news. Those abused were called "radicals" and "troublemakers" for breaking Jim Crow laws.  Some adults seemed desensitized and turned away.  When the credits rolled at the end of The Help a couple of years ago, the audience stayed.  For ten minutes women my age sat and cried softly in their seats.  The black and white footage of the ‘60s we'd been told we were too young to understand had been brought to life by a personal story peopled with sympathetic characters and apt actors. The No cast brings Chile home.

At the end of the night, Jose’s daughter, Cindy, stopped by.  She’d just seen No and wanted to ask a couple of questions about the movie. The Chilean-American is graduating from college in May with honors.  She is considering joining the Peace Corps. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hispanic extras needed Thursday for ABC's Nashville

Photo credit: ABC/Katherine Bomboy-Thornton
The Tennessean says that ABC's "Nashville" TV show needs extras Thursday - and Hispanic extras are surely welcome.

A while back, I got an e-mail from Extras Casting Director Tina Kerr of On Location Casting, saying that they had "casting needs for HISPANIC Men, Women and Children to work as paid EXTRAS for the ABC Television series 'Nashville'" and that they were "trying to reflect the ethnic diversity of the Nashville area and create realism within the show of the the types of people who actually live & work in Nashville."

The Tennessean says that tomorrow's 10am-6pm gig is unpaid, but the On Location Casting notice said the work was $8/hr.  I'm not sure if the paid gigs are over or not.

The Tennessean says to register for tomorrow's shooting at

The On Location e-mail from a while back, on the other hand, said to go to (and then Talent > Register > Talent Application). It is probably too late to fill out that application, especially for tomorrow's shooting. On Location does say not to pay for anything such as an "active" account. If you have any questions about On Location, they can be contacted at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Free tickets: Frist Center opens Central American, South American, Mexican art exposition this Friday, March 1

Clockwise, from upper left:
Burial Urn, K’iché Maya, Southern Highlands, Guatemala
Effigy Bottle, Recuay, Northern Highlands, Peru
Human Effigy Pendant, Diquís, Costa Rica
Howling Dog Effigy, Jalisco, Mexico
Seated Figure, Colima, Mexico,
All photos © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
More than 100 pieces of Ancient Central American, Andean South American, and Mexican art - from 1200 B.C. through the beginning of the Spanish conquest - will be on display in Nashville starting this Friday, March 1.  The exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is called "Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas: The John Bourne Collection" and runs through June 23.  Various related programs are listed below, including an authentic five-course dinner on March 20 (RSVP by March 1) with foods and drinks selected for their relationship to the exhibit. readers can attend opening weekend, March 1-3, for FREE by printing a Hispanic Nashville Affinity Days coupon (click here) and bringing it to the exhibition.

The religious, political and social beliefs of the Olmec, Aztec, Maya and Inka civilizations, among many others, are revealed through the various utilitarian and decorative vessels, sculptures, metal works and jewelry on display in this exhibition. The pieces serve as illustrations of these societies’ fundamental principles such as the shamanic foundation of rulership in Mesoamerica, Costa Rica and Panama, as well as the cosmic principles embodied by gold and silver in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
"Artists of these ancient cultures expressed each society’s individual characteristics through their unique monumental architecture and artful renderings of human figures, spiritual beings and deities. They also created works detailing aspects of daily life, such as dogs, llamas and other animals fashioned from clay and precious metals." -Frist Center Curator Katie Delmez 
All of the works in the exhibition come from the collection of John Bourne, which he generously gifted to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. After a trip to the jungles of southern Mexico in 1945, Bourne, along with another explorer and photographer, became the first non-Maya to see the ruins of Bonampak, the now famous Mayan site celebrated for its royal building whose interior walls are covered with historically and politically significant murals. Enamored of the creative expressiveness of the peoples of the ancient Americas, Bourne began collecting art from this region and time period.
"At this time in the 1950s, Bourne was one of only a few—which included the Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo—who recognized pre-Columbian artifacts as fine art. Art of the Ancient Americas is as much about the cultural expression of these inimitable cultures as it is John Bourne’s lifelong love of collecting works from these regions." -Frist Center Curator Katie Delmez 
There are a number of related programs starting Friday, including 

  • Curator’s Perspective: “Power and Prestige: The John Bourne Collection” Fri, Mar 1, 2013

  • Curator’s Tour: Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas Thu, Mar 14, 2013

  • Connecting Disciplines: “An Archaeologist’s Perspective”Sat, Mar 16, 2013

  • Exploring the Food of the Ancient Americas Wed, Mar 20, 2013

  • Lecture: “The Mysteries of the Ancient Maya Civilization and the Apogee of Art in the Americas” Thu, Mar 28, 2013

  • Educator Workshop: Exploring Art of the Ancient AmericasThu, Apr 11, 2013

  • Lecture: “Dressing the Part: Ritual Costume in the Mesoamerican World” Thu, Apr 11, 2013

  • Connecting Disciplines: “Writing and Iconography as a Window into the Past” Sat, Apr 20, 2013

  • FREE Family Festival Day Sun, Apr 21, 2013

  • ARTini: Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas Fri, Apr 26, 2013

  • The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members, $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m. Hours, group discounts, and additional information available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting 

    Spanish-language gallery guide will be available.

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    Alicia Partnoy and Open House Hosted by Global Education Center

    Alicia Partnoy

    by Cindy McCain
    "I'm just trying to change the world. That's all," says Ellen Gilbert, Executive Director of The Global Education Center which she founded in 1997. By offering community events, school programs, and classes taught by multicultural masters, the GEC is fulfilling its mission “to highlight the commonalities of all people while creating experiences in the arts that aid in dispelling myths, dismantling stereotypes, unlearning biases and alleviating fears. “ One such initiative is Line Breaks, a literary reading series, which on Thursday, February 21 will host writer and human rights activist, Alicia Partnoy. The event is at 8 PM at the Global Education Center, located at 4822 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, Tennessee 37209. The event is free but donations are appreciated.
    Partnoy, author of The Little School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival, is one of few survivors of some 30,000 Argentineans who “disappeared” when taken political prisoners after the death of Argentinian President Juan Perón in the military coup of 1976. Partnoy, who had become an activist of the Peronist Youth Movement while attending Southern National Universiity, was taken from her home and her 18-month old daughter in 1977. At a secret concentration camp called “The Little School,” she was blindfolded for months and severely abused. She has since served as Vice-Chair of Amnesty International USA. Currently she teaches at Loyola Marymount University and presides over Proyecto VOS (Voices of Survivors) which brings survivors of state sponsored violence to lecture at United States Universities.
    Also through Friday, February 22 the Global Education Center is hosting an Open House at their satellite studio at Casa Azafran Community Center, located at 2195 Nolensville Road, Nashville, TN. A week of free classes which began February 18 will end with a Modern Jazz class for Teens/Adults at 7 PM February 21 and Naam Yoga for Teens/Adults Friday, February 22 at 4:30 and 6 PM. Other classes offered weekly include Salsa for Teens with Steven Damo and Hip Hop for Teens/Adults with Alejandro Rivera. For the complete schedule for both locations including everything from percussion to belly dance to tango, visit or call 615.292.3023. Likewise, contact GEC to book artists for events from West Africa, Polynesia, South India, China, Spain, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands. Photography below by Ross McLaren
    Shaolu McLaren, Teaching Artist at GEC, Welcomes  Donelson Christian Academy to Chinese New Year Celebration at Casa Azafran

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