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People who marry into the Spanish-speaking community may find themselves assimilating into both a new culture and a new family.
One couple's journey led to overcoming a language barrier, while another merged both of their families into one.
Bob Schaal and Tracie Avila each faced challenges, but they were able to find love and share their stories on what it takes to adjust to another person's culture.
The human mind often wanders towards the edge of its understanding. The edge of understanding is where imagination begins, and things that are beyond reason can exist.
Walking into Dr. Ana Grinberg's office, one can easily recognize a setup common of any other professor who teaches English courses at East Tennessee State University: shelves crammed with books, chairs for students to sit in during conferences and a desk – clean and computer-occupied – in the corner of the room.
Yet the books lining Grinberg’s shelves are not typical of a professor: "Dracula," "The Vampire in Europe," "Gods, Heroes, and Monsters" and a myriad of other monster-related novels. Grinberg will be teaching a course on monsters in the spring of 2015 at ETSU.
Imagine being a passionate soccer fan on a dream trip to the World Cup in Brazil. You are paid to be there because it is a part of your job. Imagine that and you have stepped into the life of Antonio Rusiñol, 27, senior researcher at ESPN Stats & Information Group.
The group does analytics for ESPN Deportes, providing advance statistics for game coverage – ratings, rankings and material that doesn’t usually appear in box scores.
“It’s really a dream come true,” Rusiñol said, “because ESPN was my first real dream job, just because my No. 1 passion is sports.”
Every Thursday evening at Cherokee United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tenn., an exchange takes place as different tongues learn to speak in one common language.
Leading this conversation is Dr. Rosalind Gann, an East Tennessee State University professor and English as a Second Language advocate. The main goal of this gathering is to equip people whose first language is not English to speak it comfortably and correctly.
Gann has worked with English language learners in many countries. It was there that she realized how the English language is becoming more global.
"One thing I've learned is just how important English is—worldwide—and the scope of this language," she said. "It was, originally, a language of conquerors, of oppressors, and now, it's been transformed into a vehicle for universal communication."
Attorney Solange Adams McDaniel helps immigrants become residents of the U.S., while helping them feel safe again.
McDaniel has a personal perspective on immigration. Had her father not been a citizen of the United States, her coming to the U.S. from Venezuela as a child could have been a much harder process. She is passionate about helping others in situations that could have been her own.
"I meet with clients most of the day, unless I have court in the morning,” said McDaniel, who works in Johnson City, Tennessee. “Mostly what I do is consultations, where I meet with people and determine whether or not they qualify for some type of immigration benefit that can allow them to get a permanent resident card or a visa. I also help defend them if they are already in immigration court proceedings.”
A woman stands before a crowd of fellow North Carolinians, prepared to deliver a speech on a topic of great importance to her.
Carolina Siliceo Perez told how, as a college student, she stood in line to register for classes after the other students, paid out-of-state tuition without having access to financial aid and feared being pulled over every time she drove a car. She experienced these things because she is an illegal immigrant.
The scene was "Moral Monday," an event in Asheville, North Carolina, sponsored by the NAACP to address topics of social reform. Siliceo came to share reasons why she believes the U.S. needs immigration reform.
Tucked away in the back of Mountain View Elementary School's library is a man who is passionate about his job and the work he does for Johnson City Schools.
Fernando De Sousa-Pereira is the Spanish interpreter for all 11 schools in Johnson City, Tennessee. Anyone who greets De Sousa will immediately be met with a firm handshake and a smile.
If a teacher cannot communicate with a child's parents because of a language barrier, De Sousa is called to the school. He is the link between parents and teachers. De Sousa devotes a lot of time and effort into his job.
He works with parents to ensure their child succeeds in school. He wants parents to understand the school system and how it works, which means filling out the load of paperwork students need at the beginning of each school year. He attends parent-teacher conferences if he needs to translate.
Editor's note: Juan Chiu died Feb. 21 at the age of 78.
Sometimes men who played soccer for Juan Chui as kids tell him how he inspired them.
Coach Chiu, who once served as a soccer coach at Milligan College, also coached youth soccer in Johnson City, Tennessee, for 35 years.
“I think that one of my favorite parts of coaching is seeing former players, and they remember playing soccer for me,” said Chiu, who has seen his players become successful in professions such as law, acting and business.
Under the wooden rafters of Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville, Tenn., a young girl walks slowly up the aisle on the way to her womanhood. She is flanked by her mother and stepfather, and she follows a procession of young ladies in slim red dresses and gentlemen in white Navy officer’s uniforms. Her dress is bright red and voluminous. A silver tiara sits atop her head. Her name is Leslie, and today is her day; today is her quinceañera.
She loves history, she loves to read, she loves listening to stories and she loves telling stories. Thirty-three-year-old Carolina Quiroga Hurtado found these passions as a child, and because of her mother's ability to tell humorous stories as a school teacher, she found her love of storytelling.
"It is very easy for me because I've been reading all my life and I've been retelling things all my life too," Quiroga said. "I've been interested in storytelling because I just love stories. It's not like I'm a gossip person but I do like to hear stories."
A native of Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia, where she spent the first 30 years of her life, she came to the United States to become a professional storyteller. She chose to move to America and pursue a career in storytelling despite her family and friends thinking she was crazy for not sticking with her practical job as a graphic designer, which she already knew would offer a promotion in the near future.
The first time Santiago Funes visited a doctor in his 25 years as a migrant farm worker was after he suffered a heart attack and had to undergo open-heart surgery at the Johnson City Medical Center. Funes said he does not know what caused his heart attack, and the reason he had never visited a doctor was because he did not have transportation.
Before his surgery, Funes did not have any kind of medical record, and the medical record he now has in East Tennessee will remain there while he travels back home to Mexico. Since Funes will not have his medical record, any doctor he sees in the future will have a hard time learning his medical history.
Eva Becerra and her husband, Raul Rendon, have followed their dream. They are the owners of Doña Eva Meat Market & Mexican Deli in Johnson City.
On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, Becerra, Rendon and one or two assistants work in the kitchen preparing Mexican dishes of all sorts, but mostly tamales. The front door chimes once or twice as customers arrive. They swiftly pick up their order and head on their way, Eva returning to the kitchen once again.
Rendon mans the kitchen and occasionally cracks a joke in Spanish, drawing the smiles and laughs of those working around him. This is what life looks like for them. This is what the American Dream looks like for many like Becerra and Rendon. This is what they aim for.
It hasn’t always been this way. They, like everyone else in life, have had to adjust and sometimes make the best of their situation, but they persevered and now have much to show for it.
Twenty-year-old Sherry Loera Martínez is the first in her family to attend college in the United States, and she’s 1,400 miles away from home.
“I was prepared for everything but the culture shock when I got here,” Loera said.
Loera goes entire semesters without seeing her family because her closest relatives, her uncles, live in Altanta. Her parents are not legal residents of the United States, so they can’t cross the border at all. Loera only gets to visit them and her younger siblings during summer breaks.
Anyone who walks on to José Diaz’s farm will immediately be met by a unique cut-out, goat-for-sale yard sign. He said people like the sign. Goats aren’t the easiest animals to raise, Diaz said, “and everything I do is a lot of work.”
He wakes up early every morning to feed his animals, trim their nails if needed and prepare for the day. Diaz likes goat meat because he grew up eating it and drinking the milk in his birthplace of Carretero, Mexico. He moved here almost 30 years ago he said and hasn’t been back for a long time.
Now he can be found at the Jonesborough Farmer’s market rain or shine during the warmer months of the year, and selling online during the colder months. Jose Diaz is not only known for his goat raising but also his chemical-free produce and chicken eggs.
When you think of Latin American art, what do you picture?
While some may have a specific idea in mind, there’s really no way to define an artist’s style simply by looking at their heritage, as artist Mouzer Coelho – whose drawings can be seen throughout the article -- points out.
“A lot of people think that if you’re a Latin artist, you automatically do Chicano art, and I don’t do anything like that at all, so I wanted to show people that Latin Americans do all kinds of different things, not just that kind of style,” he said.
The tortilla is such a ubiquitous part of Mexican cuisine that, sometimes, it can get taken for granted. While a steaming portion of grilled chicken or steak steals center stage, the noble tortilla provides the perfect, understated backdrop. One man who hasn't forgotten about the importance of a fine tortilla is José Velasco, the owner of Tortilleria Familiar El Arriero. When Velasco opened the tortilleria's doors five years ago, he wanted to fill Johnson City's consistent demand for tortillas, and he wanted them made right.
“We really only have authentic, Mexican tacos,” says Ricardo, Velasco's 16-year-old son. “A lot of restaurants don't do that, but we have just basic, authentic food.”
It’s a humid Sunday morning. The streets of Johnson City are unusually busy for this time of the day. A local marathon is taking place and police officers are directing traffic at each intersection. Exhausted-looking participants jog by a parking lot on the fringe of ETSU’s campus where a group of people have begun to gather. One by one, cars exit the stagnant line of traffic, pass through the shadow of the looming Mini Dome and make their way to the parking lot.
One of the last people to arrive steps out of her SUV and removes her bicycle from the back. As she does this, several other riders carve wide arcs around the parking lot, warming up for the ride while they wait. The woman, sporting a white windbreaker, blue shades and full riding gear, strolls up to the main group of riders, which has now gathered near the back of the parking lot. She greets the others with a familiar smile. After a minute or two of friendly conversation, the riders mount their bikes and she is off with a quick wave.
Daniela Mena Dau, a 34-year-old Chilean native, is bringing the art of salsa dancing to Johnson City. Once a month, Dau and her dancing partner BJ Goliday host salsa lessons at Bodega 105, a local Latin American restaurant. Before the class starts, Dau takes time to mingle with her students. Dressed in a fiery red dancing costume, it’s apparent that she’s the instructor.
The band starts up and fills the cozy restaurant with the hypnotic beat of the Latin music. Students of the class eagerly make their way towards the front of the venue. Dau and Goliday, sensing that it’s time to begin, head for the stage. From 8 to 11 o’clock, Dau and Goliday will lead the restaurant’s patrons in various dance steps.
Home page photo by Carter Giegerich
Foto en la página inicial por Carter Giegerich
Yesenia Cruz Pascual only knew about three other Hispanics on campus before joining the Hispanic American Student Community Alliance. She felt that not being able to interact with other Latino students was affecting her ability to keep in touch with her Spanish heritage.
“Since I only get to go home every three months or so, and I call my mom like once a week, I didn’t get to practice my Spanish very often,” said Pascual, president of HASCA at East Tennessee State University.
The most important decisions in life are often the ones that reveal themselves when you least expect. For Dr. Joyce Troxler the combination of a newly discovered interest and a family medical concern led her to medical school. That decision led her back to the mountains of East Tennessee, where she grew up.
The Jonesborough, Tenn. native was “rambling” and trying to decide what she wanted to do with her life. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, she was working with the New Mexico State Office of Archeology when she shared a revelation with her father.
“I had thought about doing forensic pathology and my dad was like, ‘You know, this means you should go to medical school,’” Troxler said.
Twenty-eight-year-old Meylin Menjivar Mejia laughs about some of the things she heard when she first came to Tennessee. Sometimes she did not understand things people said. Now, she will even say Southern phrases herself.
“The first time I heard ‘bless your heart,’ I just looked at the woman like, what? I did not understand what she meant at all. Now, I just know it’s a Southern thing,” said Mejia.
After a long journey, 22-year-old Frank Cedillo has succeeded in becoming the first Hispanic deputy sheriff in Greene County.
His dreams had to start somewhere, and that was with his father, Guadalupe Cedillo, who was a military man and police officer in Mexico.
Some members of the East Tennessee Hispanic community face an everyday issue: not being able to see their families.
Whether these families are immediate or extended, each person dealing with the issue has his or her own way of coping.
Are you a father or soon-to-be father looking for a stable job, worried about your finances, wanting to better connect with your children? Do you want to become their hero, but are struggling with the mother of your children and have barriers that keep you from reaching your goals? Well, look no further. There’s a program that caters to every one of these issues.
Since the DREAM Act was introduced into the Senate on Aug. 1, 2001, Americans have voiced conflicting views on the issue. Some say that act does not pose a problem, while other Americans feel it would only serve to increase illegal immigration into the United States.
When Juan Avila was 17 years old and approaching his high school graduation, he had never thought about going to college.
“It was a goal that I didn’t really have in mind, because I thought it was unattainable, but it happened,” he said.
People in the automobile business have had a rough couple of years. Freddy Gonzalez, owner of Chaparral Buick GMC, knows firsthand about those hardships.
It all started a few years ago when Chrysler and General Motors had to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy and get bailed out by the government.
Often when a family moves to the United States, the children learn English in school but continue speaking Spanish at home. The learning process is enjoyable for some, especially young children, but can be more trying for others.
It is difficult for a parent to explain birth control to a child. That topic gets even more complicated when things are the other way around.
This is exactly the situation Spanish teacher Holly Melendez found herself in when she accompanied a Spanish-speaking friend to the doctor’s office.
A visitor to the kitchen of Esperanza Joseph will likely find her leaning over a counter, arms caked in cornmeal, preparing tamales, perhaps for an event at her church.
Joseph, 65, has been serving up tamales, and various other authentic Mexican dishes, since her childhood, using her cooking talents as one of many means to become an active community member.
She has lived in Greeneville, Tenn. since the 1980s and has been in the U.S. for more than 40 years. And for at least the last two decades, Joseph has been bucking a nationwide trend – sort of.
Yolanda Miranda welcomes her Sunday morning congregation with hugs and handshakes. She seemed to know all 20 members at Manantial de Vida United Methodist Church. Miranda came from Costa Rica to Abingdon, Va., in 1990, later changing her visitor's visa to a religious worker's visa as she began missions work. At that time Miranda knew of no Latino community in the area. But as Miranda said, that’s when God sent her angels: Bob and Carol Jones, an Abingdon couple who took her to the immigration offices to help her change her visa.
Daniel A., 32, moved from Honduras to East Tennessee almost four years ago. His family in Honduras accepts the money order he mails every other week instead of seeing their son. His parents were sad to watch their son leave their country, but Daniel knew he could provide a better life for his family if he moved to the United States.
Pvt. Juan Benjamin Alcantar and his wife were living in Chicago when he decided to join the U.S. military. At the time, he was going to college and working in a warehouse.
“It was hard to keep up on school and my duty as a husband,” said Alcantar, 25. “To me it [joining the military] is something that’s a great idea to do.”
It also helped him become a citizen.
Maria Hernandez has experienced the financial and personal struggles of families going through the visa application process.
When one of her relatives tried to get a visa several years ago, they hired a lawyer from Georgia.
Months later, the lawyer ended up dropping the case.
Maria and Johnathan Webb married four years ago.
A young couple, Maria, 23, and Johnathan, 24, are already making big plans.
"I told Johnathan before we got married that we'd be buying a big house someday and my family would be moving in," said Maria.
Sitting at his kitchen table, Juan Rojas, known as Johnny, smiles as his little sister runs around the table. There are photographs throughout the Johnson City home of family members near and far.
Johnny, whose family is from Mexico, is a senior in high school looking forward to his future. Being bilingual can make it easier for him to find employment. Johnny said he once worked for a restaurant that needed someone who was bilingual, because some of the workers spoke Spanish.
Although free health care is available to all children, Hispanics are the least likely of all children in the United States to receive it.
One reason may be that they tend to be healthier. But another could be that language barriers and lack of transportation lead parents who don’t speak English to avoid waiting rooms.
Every morning as Mayne Beceria gets ready for school, so does her young daughter Melanie. Too young for kindergarten, the dark-haired, giggly girl goes to a special school — Johnson City Even Start.
“Oh, Mommy. Let’s go to my school, Melanie’s school!” Melanie tells her mother.