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When she came to the U.S. 30 years ago, Monica Chrysandreas had trouble understanding unique expressions that are part of Appalachian dialect.

“I had never heard the word ‘y’all’ in my entire life before I came here,” she said.

The idea of being an entrepreneur is a dream for many workers. An estimated 3.3 million businesses in the U.S. have Hispanic ownership, according to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. In Tennessee, Hispanic-owned businesses totaled 13,743 in 2012, up 58 percent from 2007.

Two Hispanic-owned companies Johnson City are run by long-time businessmen José Luis Jauregui and Freddy Gonzalez.

At the new St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, to be a church simply isn’t enough. Being out and bringing the church to the people, rather than the people to the church, is the objective.

The pastor, The Rev. Tom Charters, says the idea behind it all is to be missionaries first, church second. He feels that it is more important to go out and make people feel loved and to help people who are in need.

Until seven years ago, the town of Erwin didn’t even have a Catholic Church. In 2011, after a mission was formed, worshipers met in a house on Jackson-Love Highway. Then in December 2017, the people broke ground for a parish life center at 657 N. Mohawk Drive. Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville elevated the mission to a parish on Sept. 29.

Do you know what you’re celebrating on Cinco de Mayo?

To many in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is a time to drink, party and be with friends. But how much does the typical U.S. citizen know about the day itself?

Many Anglos don’t even know why they’re celebrating, beyond the discounts on beer and burritos. Few people know the actual meaning behind Cinco de Mayo.

Denise Chavez Reyes was working on her master’s degree in technology when she got the idea of a thesis about enrollment of Hispanic students at East Tennessee State University. She began to research, focusing on what helped Hispanic students who were graduating from college.

“I feel like the research that I found looks at the barriers, but I wanted to see what the other part was,” she said. “What [were] the factors that motivated the individuals to change their behavior?”

The United States is called the "land of the free." But some immigrants do not feel free to keep their surnames.

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Milagros “Millie” Cartagena-Ferrer Pruitt was accustomed to the Spanish language and traditions. On Oct. 9, 1961, that all changed when she moved to Alabama to join the Women’s Army Corps at Fort McClellan.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Charles Carter sorts through his music. With concentration, he lays out 10 CDs by Spanish singer Julio Iglesias. Iglesias’ songs would soon travel across the airwaves from East Tennessee to as far as Hickory, North Carolina, thanks to Carter and the WETS-FM show “Ritmo Latino.”

Their paths were different, but Johnson City interpreters Daniela Dau and Courtney Cevallos are dedicated to using language to break down barriers in the court system.

Dau was born into the Spanish language as a native of Chile, and can usually identify herself as the only Latina next to the judge’s bench. Cevallos, with her blonde hair, blue eyes and pale complexion, takes a moment longer to convince her clients that she’s qualified for her job.

A burning log in the fireplace may produce a pleasant smell, but this method of warming a home in the winter may present risks to people with respiratory problems. Smoke, whether from wood, coal or tobacco products, gives off particles in the air that are considered household air pollutants.

A new five-year study looks at how those airborne particles affect patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, who live in rural and urban areas. The patients will be visited three times over a span of six months, and monitors will be placed in their homes to look for toxins in the air.  Dr. Mildred Maisonet, a professor at East Tennessee State University, leads the rural side of the study.

Out of the millions of immigrants who fight to come to the U.S. every year, retired boxer Ignacio Orestes Salazar Batista finally won the match.

It began many years ago in his hometown of Holguin, Cuba. Salazar’s cousin was going to the gym to spar, and Salazar, then 15, went along in case he needed to defend his cousin. He was afraid the more experienced boxer would try to do more than just box.

At the gym, Salazar was asked if he would like to put on gloves to spar. He had never seen boxing before, but he geared up for a loss that would lead to a career he never imagined.

Marcelo Kramer begins each of his capoeira classes with a history lesson. Then comes the music, and he expects everyone to join. Only after that does he begin instruction in the martial art.

Kramer, 33, has taught capoeira at ETSU’s Basler Center for Physical Activity since May 2016. He works hard to incorporate the cultural and historical significance of capoeira into the physical aspects of the class.

Soccer, football, futbol, whatever language is spoken and no matter where the origin, this sport has a global language.

Throughout the cold winter nights in Johnson City, groups of men and women from various backgrounds come together to play futbol.

For Hispanic Americans, futbol is an important part of life. The Johnson City Indoor Soccer leagues offer a place for communities to come together and play the game they love.

The day of a farm worker starts at the crack of dawn and stretches well into evening. These work days also call for hearty meals to keep workers energized.

Preparing these meals makes for an even earlier morning for some.

From April to October, Anabel Andrade begins her days in the kitchen at 4 a.m. to provide homemade and authentic Mexican meals to the migrant workers at Scott’s Farm and Jones and Church Farm in Unicoi County, Tennessee. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, she is the fuel for these workers’ day of strenuous labor.

Erlan Aristides Martinez and his wife Mima Fabiola Castro made some crucial decisions in their lifetimes, decisions that have forever changed not only their lives, but those of their sons.

Martinez and Castro now live in Bristol, Tennessee, thousands of miles from their place of birth: Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

Many universities and colleges in the United States accept students from around the globe, and East Tennessee State University is one of them. Students travel for hours to ETSU and for Maria Avila, it was no different.

Avila arrived as a freshman in spring 2013. She traveled from Cuernavaca, Mexico, the capital city in the state of Morelos. When she went home after a semester in the United States, she wasn’t sure she wanted to return. She missed her family and home.

Limestone, Tennessee, is a small farming community. Most of its businesses are auto repair shops, gas stations, a medical clinic, restaurants and a post office. CrossFit Glorified, owned by the Florez family, is the only fitness facility.

CrossFit is not just a business to Gustavo “Gus” Florez and his family: It’s a passion.

Gus and his wife Lourdes owned and operated sports facilities and a premier competitive soccer program in Connecticut before deciding to move to Limestone to be with family. After moving they decided to start their own CrossFit affiliation. Their daughter Camila and nephew Samuel train with with them. Gus’ mother, Dennyr Florez, also does CrossFit training.

Thursday, 12 October 2017 20:45

It takes two (Uruguayans and one American) to tango

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In 2010, Michael Luchtan set out on an adventure to Mexico, hoping to learn Spanish and study Mexican heritage through its music. Along the way, he hoped to find connections to his own culture.

In 2016, Rodrigo Guridi came to East Tennessee State University from Uruguay to continue his music studies. His friend Diego Núñez would later follow.

Through Arrabal, a tango trio born from the three men’s love of music, Luchtan’s goals have been realized.

“Music doesn’t know about borders,” Núñez said. “People used to cross borders and music would just go with the people.”

Martin Ceron has never met his newborn son Enrique. He has not set foot in the United States in two years. His wife, Brenda Bustos, is 2,000 miles away in Erwin, Tennessee, while he is in Mexico City.

The family is being torn apart as a result of U.S. legislation on illegal immigration.

“My parents are here, but he is my family,” said Bustos. “My family is down there, and I know he needs my support.”

The smell of seawater washes over an 11-year-old girl like waves on a beach. The aroma is losing a battle to the smell of fresh flan from her grandmother’s kitchen. It is Sunday and Beatriz Cano Diaz’s family has gathered as it does every week at her father’s family home in Cuba.

“We would go to church in the mornings,” Cano Diaz recalled. “After that, we would come back to my grandma’s house. My parents and the adults would all be drinking. It was a good time … but we had to leave, for different reasons.”

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 16:47

Latino family reinvents the snowcone

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It all started in South Texas. As a kid, Esmeralda Lopez loved visiting “raspas,” street vendors selling finely shaved flavored ice with traditional Mexican toppings. In 2011, with daughter Sam graduating from high school, she saw an opportunity for a new business.

The summer after Sam’s graduation, her parents, Esmeralda and Miguel, bought her a food truck and helped her start what is today Sam’s Snoball Paradise.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 03:46

Unicoi Winds Up Second Season

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"Let's go Devils! BLUE, BLUE, BLUE BLUE BLUE!" screams a line of girls in blue jerseys. The sun is starting to go down as the players on the sidelines cheer for their teammates on the soccer field. For the six seniors, this is the last home game before graduation. By the end of the game, the girls are on their feet, barely ahead. As the time runs out, the girls jump up to embrace one another in a massive huddle, celebrating a win for their last home game of the season. 

Two years ago, Unicoi County High School didn't have a soccer team. Head coach Bettina Chirica has been surprised by the amount of community support for the new program.

It is a Tuesday at the Johnson City Public Library around 5:45 p.m. Callie Longo, 24, is preparing for members to show up for a discussion group that she leads every week.

The conversation group usually spends half of the two-hour period speaking in English and the other in Spanish. Longo began the group as an alternative for people who wish to continue learning and speaking Spanish but do not have the time, or the money, to enroll in courses.

“I noticed when you’re in school, it is really easy to keep up the language skills,” said Longo. “But once you get into the adult world, there is not really anything available unless you’re consistently engaged in conversation.”

Being caught in the middle between two cultures but not truly belonging to either: This is an everyday struggle for many in the United States. This struggle is one that Latino American author Marcos McPeek-Villatoro knows well.

Many U.S. military veterans rely on a method of coping to return to their civilian lives. Maria Perez Whiston relies on fellowship with other veterans. 

Whiston, a retired Army veteran, finds her peace in volunteering at the Warrior’s Canvas and Veteran Arts Center, an art gallery in downtown Johnson City that allows veterans to showcase their work, take classes and sell their art. The gallery offers supplies free of charge to the veterans in an effort to give them fellowship and socialization with one another.

A farmworker dons his work gear, readying himself for another long, hot day in the fields. As he prepares to leave, his young daughter Lucy stops him, hoping to come with him.

The man shakes his head, telling Lucy he doesn’t want her to get hurt. She reacts in anger and sneaks into the fields against his will. Then, she comes across plants that have just been sprayed with pesticides.

“Oh, plants,” she remarks as she eats one, curious. Her father finds her soon after, collapsed from symptoms of poisoning. He rushes her to the hospital, but her condition proved too advanced to cure.

When you ask Silvia Fregoso how many children she has, she asks, "My biological children or my other children?"

For the last 27 years, Fregoso has worked in early childhood education with the Telamon Corp. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program. She currently has 31 children under her care in Elizabethton. When she started her career, Fregoso wasn’t sure if the job was right for her.

"My husband worked in the fields back in those days, and they had no bilingual people to work with the Head Start program, and I wasn't really bilingual yet, but Head Start recruited me," she said. 

In a small gymnasium in Kingsport, Tennessee, more than 100 Mexican nationals stand in line or sit patiently in chairs, waiting to be ushered to a long bank of cameras, printers and office equipment near the back of the room.

There, employees of the Mexican consulate in Atlanta wait behind a long line of tables, taking photos of and speaking to the visitors who need a passport, consular ID — matricula — or other documents. 

As a parent, do you think about obesity? Do you worry about your children developing this condition? If so, you and your children can participate in a study to learn more about obesity and metabolic syndrome and how to prevent these conditions.

Obesity, or being overweight, is an epidemic in the U.S., says Dr. Arsham Alamian, a professor of epidemiology at East Tennnessee State University. But this problem is more serious among the Hispanic population.

From humble beginnings in Mexico City to a life in Northeast Tennessee, brothers Josiamar and Carlos Martinez dreamed of owning their own business.

During their childhoods in Mexico City, the brothers were already earning their own money.

“We made favors to the people,” Josiamar said. “They asked, ‘Can you buy something for me at the store?’, and we made money and would use bicycles to get there. We were 6 and 11 years old. Older people, they don’t want to go out, and would tip us and things like that.”

Visiting yard sales throughout the year helps keep the brothers in business at the Jonesborough Flea Market, where they work on Sundays.

Saturday, 17 October 2015 19:03

José Vázquez: A bracero for life

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His smile was inviting, and the red apples José Vázquez’s daughter placed on the table were starting to turn the color of his warm, brown complexion. Vázquez, 77, laughed as he tried to remember the when he had crossed the border to America to work in the hot sun. “A long time ago” is finally what was settled on.

The worst thing he could remember about his time in the Bracero Program was the food — especially the oatmeal. Oatmeal was nothing like Vázquez was used to eating in Mexico. He said he would look down at it and wonder what this mush was the Americans were trying to feed him.

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