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