2018

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.

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