Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Gomez, Solano write Latino 101 for new mayor (and others)

(L-R) Marcela Gomez, Javier Solano
Starting with the tips, "We don't speak in one voice," and then continuing, "but sometimes we do," Marcela Gomez and Javier Solano appear on the Tennessean web site today with 13 tips about local Latinos for the incoming mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry. Gomez is CEO of Hispanic Marketing Group in Nashville, and Solano is vice president at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations. Gomez and Solano are President and co-Vice President, respectively, of the TN Latin American Chamber of Commerce.

Tip #9, about "Hispanic" vs. "Latino," for instance:
Neither, really. Mexican, Colombian, Cuban, American — any of these will work. Don’t hyphenate. That confuses us. And if you must use Hispanic or Latino, as we’re doing here, we think Latino is better because it’s more of a self-selected term. Don’t lose any sleep over it, though. Not a big deal.
Also, about not speaking in one voice (tip #1):
Here in Nashville, we have about 65,000 Latinos, representing more than 20 countries, five ways of saying the word “orange” in Spanish depending on where they’re from, two chambers... 
Ah, the two chambers. The Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce used to be called the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (see tip #9), and the other Hispanic chamber is the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The fact that there have been two Hispanic chambers in Nashville almost from the moment there was even one, and the frequently asked questions in town about "the" Hispanic chamber, were the subject of's own "101" page back in the day.

As for Latinos speaking in one voice, that's a reference to both the defeat of "English Only" in 2009, and the more recent cause of tuition equality. Tuition equality gets its own tip (#3). Considering this mention of a statewide legislative issue, and the likelihood that some of Gomez's and Solano's statements like "we love this country" (#11) are probably already understood – compassion for immigrants was a point of agreement between Barry and her runoff opponent – the authors are not just speaking to Barry. They're leveraging the recent election as an opportunity to speak to the city as a whole, its newly seated council, and the state leaders who govern from Nashville and read its daily paper.

The full column by Gomez and Solano is here.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Thank you for your work

Francisco Castro, working on First Tennessee Park
Detail of photo by John Partipilo / The Tennessean

Today is Labor Day. We celebrate work.

Today I am thinking of Francisco Castro's hands hard at work at First Tennessee Park, the popular new stadium of our minor-league baseball team, the Nashville Sounds. Castro was photographed by John Partipilo of The Tennessean in a feature about opening day.

My Facebook has lit up since then with photos of friends enjoying the place. Less visible are those who built it, so kudos to Partipilo and the paper for offering a glimpse.

We don't have a list of everyone who put their energy, effort, and skill into the construction of the stadium, but we do have Francisco's name. Thank you, Francisco, for your work - your labor, on behalf of a city excited about the home team's new home.

Happy Labor Day.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Diana Cisneros to represent Tennessee at Miss U.S. Latina 2015

Miss Tennessee Latina 2015 Diana Cisneros
Photo by Erik Lara Photography

Diana Cisneros, named in July as this year's Miss Tennessee Latina, will be traveling to the Miss U.S. Latina pageant from August 30 through September 6 in Cancún, Mexico.

In a video interview with Su Programa, Cisneros mentions her social work studies at Nashville State Community College and MTSU, her arrival to Nashville six years ago from her hometown of Queens, New York, and her proud parents, who are from El Salvador.

gofundme crowdfunding page has been set up at to help Miss Cisneros with expenses related to the pageant, but as of August 20, attempts to donate are generating an error message.

Update: The crowdfunding page has been fixed.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lindi Ortega invokes Muertos mantra of country music

Lindi Ortega (Source:

Lindi Ortega's new, 10-song album "Faded Gloryville" landed her on the pages of the Nashville Scene this week. With the Scene describing Ortega's "warbling throwback vocals" as being supported by "some of the hottest producers in roots music," the talent and the art are clearly alive. Interestingly, the article points out that the title track is a funeral march, which makes sense in the context of a career that the Scene calls, "DIY country noir."

Ortega, who is half-Mexican by way of her father, has brought the somber topic of death to her music partly through her fascination with the holiday Día de los Muertos. From her official web site:
Through the works of Frida Kahlo, Lindi found an appreciation for Dia De Los Muertos, the Mexican Celebration of the dead. As a graduate in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, Lindi has always been fascinated with the idea of death and found irony in the Mexican depiction of Skeletons dressed up and almost cartoon-like during a day where the dead were celebrated. Suddenly death did not seem so morbid... It began to take on a certain whimsy. Lindi believes that both life and death could stand to be a little more whimsical.
In an interview with American Songwriter, Ortega sees this mix of the morbid and the celebratory even in classic country music:
Maybe that’s the reason I like Johnny Cash songs so much. “Folsom Prison Blues” has one of the most crushing lyrics of all time – “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” – but it’s set to this jovial, happy, clip-cloppy beat. If you took away the lyrics and just listened to the music, you’d think it was a different kind of song. So it’s the light and the dark, the ups and the downs, that I’m most attracted to.”
Ortega is a native of Toronto and currently lives in Nashville.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ted Cruz in Tennessee with Michelle Garcia and Tommy Vallejos

(L-R) Ted Cruz, Tommy Vallejos, Michelle Garcia
Source: Facebook/Tommy Vallejos 14th District

U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz passed through Nashville yesterday, stopping to speak to supporters in nearby Murfreesboro and Franklin. Cruz had previously announced a state Leadership Team that includes Murfreesboro businesswoman Michelle Garcia and Clarksville Mayor Pro-Tem and pastor Tommy Vallejos. While pressing the flesh, Cruz posed for a photo with Garcia and Vallejos.

From the Cruz campaign press release on the Tennessee Leadership Team:
Michelle Garcia is a wife, a mother of two, and a Tennessee native who strongly supports conservative principles and who eagerly strives to serve her community. Michelle speaks fluent Spanish and is actively involved with Hispanic outreach. Professionally, Michelle has over 16 years of experience as an association manager and meeting planner, in addition to small business management and ownership experience.

Tommy Vallejos is a retiree of the US Army, where he proudly served over 21 years and was awarded the Bronze Star. He is the Care Pastor for Faith Outreach Church in Clarksville, and he is also the first ever Latino county commissioner in our state, currently serving his second term representing Montgomery County. Tommy is a dedicated husband, father and grandfather, and he is an unapologetic advocate for Jesus Christ.
Garcia and Vallejos are also members of the conservative political group Latinos for Tennessee.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Quinceañera business? Yeah, it's the Scene cover story.

Nashville Scene, July 23, 2015. Photo by Angelina Castillo.

The name of U.S. President Jimmy Carter standing in a tiny corner, the July 23, 2015 Nashville Scene cover (you've probably already seen it) features a full-size photo of 15-year-old twins Stephanie and Melanie Angel, smiling and raising glasses in the middle of their quinceañera birthday party, wearing matching aquamarine-colored dresses that their mother picked out for them. The debutante party market is booming in Hispanic Nashville, according to the feature with the straightforward title, Quinceañera!

Scene staff writer Dulce Torres, who won Conexion Americas' inaugural young writer essay contest in 2008, interviewed suppliers feasting on the strong and growing local quince demand - including photographer Dalila Duarte of Miyagui Photography and Video, Andrew Vallomthail of Bridal and Formal Wear by RJ, and Rocio Zenon of Coreografias Rocio Zenon. The price tag on these Middle Tennessee parties reaches the $10,000 to $20,000 range, so much that parents are offering to buy their daughters cars instead, according to the story.  Family members who treat it as a reunion are prone to defray the cost to the proud parents.  From the story:
"I tell my daughters that this will be something beautiful. Apart from your 15th birthday, the family you've never met will be reunited," Enrique says. He says many relatives are coming just to see long-lost family.
The business reporting is interspersed with a narrative window into the fraternal twins' dance prep, party theme compromises, and the chants of jubilant attendees cheering on friends and family.  Read the full story here, illustrated by Scene photographer Angelina Castillo.

Nashville quinceañeras used to be featured on the cover of and are still featured in the pages of HolaTN. But a quinceañera cover story on the Nashville Scene - now that's the sign of a city growing up. Party, anyone?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

See artwork, then hear opera in Spanish: "Florencia en el Amazonas"

The first opera to be presented in Spanish in Nashville will be "Florencia en el Amazonas," performed by the Nashville Opera at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center on January 23, 25, & 27, 2015. "Florencia en el Amazonas" was composed in Spanish by Daniel Catán and is inspired by the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the musical romanticism of Puccini and Debussy. The opera is sung in Spanish with easy-to-read projected English supertitles.

A related preview of the opera, via visual art, is open now through January 17 at The Arts Company, 215 5th Avenue of the Arts in downtown Nashville, during regular gallery hours, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The exhibition features nine local Hispanic artists. After the opera performances conclude on January 27, the exhibition will move to the Noah Liff Opera Center and will complete its run in April and May at Casa Azafran (specific dates to be announced later). The exhibition is supported through a Metro Nashville Arts Commission grant to the Nashville Opera, and presented in cooperation with Conexión Américas and The Arts Company.

The plot of the opera is set 105 years in the past, on the Amazon River:
In 1910, seven people board a small steamboat for a voyage down the Amazon River toward an unexplored jungle paradise. But soon the characters find themselves on a surreal journey that dares to venture deep into the mysteries of the human heart. Among all the passengers, Florencia seeks the most desperate love of all: Lost love. A true love she long ago let slip through her fingers, and now vows to find again.
“It is a privilege to help discover and present artists in the Nashville Hispanic community,” remarks Anne Brown, owner of The Arts Company. “Especially to work directly with the Nashville Opera and Conexión Américas, tying the artwork to the theme and style of an opera written in Spanish, as well as to the personal experiences of Hispanic artists living and working in the Nashville area."

Participating artists include Liliana Velez, Jorge Arrieta, Orlando Garcia-Camacho, Antuco Chicaiza, Yuri Figueroa, Mandy Peitz, Mike Quinones and Jorge Yances.

Mandy Peitz described her art and its connection to the exhibition and the opera:
My Hispanic roots flow deep inside my creativity – beautiful and dangerous like a river meandering through the jungle. Vibrant shades of red, blue and orange saturate my work, dancing with shadows below. This Kansas girl is thrilled to be part of a show where I can exhibit the fantastic and magical scenes that permeate my mind.

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