A mother and her child are waiting for their two-year checkup at East Tennessee State University’s pediatric clinic when José Zepeda and a resident pediatrician enter the room.
“How’s our little girl?” said the doctor.
“¿Cómo está la niña?” said Zepeda.
“Muy bien!” said the mother of the child in question.
“She is very well,” said Zepeda to the doctor, glancing at the little girl with a smile.
The mother does not speak English and the doctor does not speak Spanish, but the seemingly endless questionnaire of things like, “How many servings of fruits and vegetables does she eat per day?” goes over with ease.
“There is an art to interpreting,” said Zepeda, a certified medical interpreter at ETSU Pediatrics. “My job is to help two people who cannot communicate with each other come together and be able to care for this child. That is why I love doing this.”
Laid before him are the chalice, the paten, the sanctuary candle and a book of prayers and Bible readings called the lectionary. All are placed upon the corporal, a white linen cloth.
These are the tools that Father Jesús Guerrero-Rodriguez uses to conduct Mass for the members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Johnson City, Tennessee.
He looks up and says, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Members of the congregation move their hands to mark the points of the cross on their bodies and a uniform “amen” ripples through across the crowded pews.
Cruz Ortega is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary story of overcoming adversity through patience and persistence. It took him 14 years, but this year he finally obtained U.S. citizenship.
As a child, Ortega lived in a rural area of Mexico, but today he helps run a company called SPC Manufacturing in Johnson City, Tennessee. Ortega recalls what led him to the United States, where some of his family already lived.
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.
For 10 weeks last summer, six immigrants attended classes in Johnson City, Tennessee, to prepare for the United States citizenship test. Alejandra Malfovon was one of the four who graduated after completing the class.
"With the class on Saturdays, it gave me time to study and prepare throughout the week," said Malfovon, who is from Mexico. "It also helped that the class was in Johnson City so that I could attend."