Latinos and the Nonprofit Sector

With the Hispanic segment of the U.S. population growing rapidly, it’s no wonder that retailers have begun to sit up and take notice of this group’s influence; however, it’s undeniable that the non-profit sector needs to engage Latinos as well in order to advance their agendas.  Hispanics have a great deal to offer nonprofit organizations in the way of volunteerism and monetary contributions, but just as corporate outfits must modify their advertising approach for the Hispanic market, non-profit organizations must also find new approaches to actively engage Latinos.  “A launch into the Hispanic market is essential to any organization’s survival…but it’s not something that can happen without proper planning and thought.” [1]

One of the key means of reaching out to Spanish-speaking donors or potential volunteers is by securing a professional translation of all copy such as brochures, press releases, and fundraising letters.  While many Latino communities in the U.S. prefer information in English, be sure to provide literature that shows sensitivity to the traditions, norms, and other cultural subtleties that are unique to your prospective donors or volunteers.  Avoid using the same English-language materials that were developed for your non-Latino audience.

While traditional written materials are a mainstay of any fundraising or volunteer campaign, the power of the Internet and social media should not be overlooked.  According to Vanguard Communications, a public relations and social marketing firm based in Washington, D.C., “The number of Latinos using social media is growing exponentially, but the number of organizations tweeting in both English and Spanish is still fairly small.  A Facebook fan page or Twitter account dedicated to your issue is a popular mechanism for providing Spanish-language updates and action steps and promoting the offerings through your other outreach efforts.” [2]

A nonprofit organization looking to establish loyalty toward its cause must focus on getting to know its audience, encouraging involvement and demonstrating a commitment to the Latino community.  “The U.S. census identifies Latinos as a young population, indicating the majority has not reached their primary giving years,” thus the development of a thoughtful strategy for capturing Hispanic donors and volunteers has the potential to reap great rewards in the future. [3]  Latinos who perceive themselves as valued, respected and an integral part of an organization’s agenda will prove to be an invaluable resource to nonprofits as they look to advance their worthwhile causes and efforts.

[1] Fundraising Success, Conference Roundup: Reaching the Hispanic Population
[2] Vanguard Communications, Understanding Trends in Hispanic Outreach
[3] Association of Fundraising Professionals, Diversity Essay: Latino philanthropy in the U.S.

The Use of Neutral Spanish for the U.S. Hispanic Market

There is little doubt about the growing influence of the Hispanic demographic in the United States.  According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos comprise 14.8% of the population for a total of 44.3 million people.  What’s more, Hispanics are projected to account for almost 25% of the total U.S. population by the year 2050.[1]  The incredible cultural and linguistic diversity of the U.S. Hispanic population presents a challenge for retailers and other businesses who want to reach out to the Latino segment and harness the economic potential within that group.  So, how does one effectively communicate with and market to an audience consisting of cultures from across the Spanish-speaking world?  The answer lies in the use of neutral Spanish.

When creating advertising campaigns, website content, or other materials geared toward the U.S. Hispanic audience, companies are wise to consider the use of neutral Spanish, which avoids regionalisms, colloquial language, and certain verb tenses and conjugations that hint at a particular dialect.  Translators and writers employing neutral Spanish seek to produce a text that is universally understood by Spanish speakers.  Given the dynamic nature of the Latino community, a translator should have contact with the Hispanic market in the U.S. in order to make the best decisions regarding word choice.

The use of neutral Spanish for Latino audiences is gaining traction in television and radio as well.  The rise in popularity of neutral Spanish on the airwaves signals a real change in how U.S. Hispanics view themselves as a unique community apart from their respective countries of origin.  Ilan Stavans, Professor of Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College in Massachusetts, notes, “It is a widespread trend that is quite significant because it says much about how Latinos in the U.S. are consolidating their own identity.”

Though neutral Spanish lacks an equivalent in the real world (think Received Pronunciation in the U.K. or Standard American English in the U.S.), erasing traces of a telltale accent from spoken Spanish or country-specific slang from the written word serves to avoid confusing or even offending the audience and goes a long way in appealing to the broad Hispanic demographic in the United States.

[1] Hispanic Population of the United States, U.S. Census Bureau


Lunfardo: The Slang of Buenos Aires

Argentine Spanish is peppered with words and phrases from Lunfardo, a vast vocabulary developed on the streets of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 19th century.  Criminals and other shady characters looking to keep their activities under wraps developed Lunfardo by borrowing and twisting words from the melting pot of languages that surrounded them, allowing them to communicate with each other even in the presence of the police or prison guards.  While initially used by the more unsavory element of Argentine society, Lunfardo was later popularized through the tango, literary art forms, and upwardly mobile immigrants and has become a part of everyday, informal speech regardless of social class.  Today, the use of Lunfardo is most prevalent in Argentina (particularly in and around Buenos Aires) and Uruguay, though some elements have been adopted by neighboring countries such as Chile and Paraguay.

Lunfardo was largely a product of the great wave of European immigration to Argentina that took place from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s.  The huge influx of immigrants hailing from Spain, Italy and France, many of whom spoke non-standard regional dialects or languages, greatly influenced the development of Lunfardo.  Certain words also arrived via the gauchos from Argentina’s interior as well as from native groups like the Guaraní, Quechua and Mapuche.

One of the features of Lunfardo is the use of vesre, a form of wordplay that involves reversing the order of syllables in a word.  The term “vesre” is derived from the Spanish word “revés” (in reverse/backwards).  Examples of vesre include café → feca (coffee), pantalones → lompa (a truncated form of the word for pants) and hotel → telo (a pay-by-the-hour love motel).

In addition to vesre, Lunfardo also employs words based on metaphors such as tumbero, a slang term for “convict” that originates from the Spanish word “tumba” meaning grave.  Another example is the word “campana” (Spanish for “bell”), which describes the lookout man ready to sound the alarm should the police suddenly arrive on the scene.

For those of you looking to add a splash of color to your Spanish, the following website has compiled an extensive list of Lunfardo words and phrases: Diccionario de Lunfardo.

Some Lunfardo words added to our blog:

Meaning of “guita

Lunfardo: Money Talk

Meaning of Atorrante

See also: Linguistic Features of Rioplatense (River Plate) Spanish

Notable Hispanic and Latino Americans – Part II

Part II of our list of some notable Hispanic and Latino Americans, citizens or residents of the United States with ancestry or origins in Hispanic America.


Richard A. Tapia selected for the National Science Board (governing board for the National Science Foundation) by President Bill Clinton.

Richard A. Tapia (born March 25, 1939) is a renowned American mathematician and champion of under-represented minorities in the sciences. In recognition of his broad contributions, in 2005, Tapia was named “University Professor” at Rice University in Houston, Texas, the University’s highest academic title. The honor has been bestowed on only six professors in the Rice’s ninety-four year history. Tapia is currently the Maxfield and Oshman Professor of Engineering; Associate Director of Graduate Studies, Office of Research and Graduate Studies; and Director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University.

Tapia’s mathematical research is focused on mathematical optimization and iterative methods for nonlinear problems. His current research is in the area of algorithms for constrained optimization and interior point methods for linear and nonlinear programming.


Tito Puente (Puerto Rico)
Tito Puente, Sr., (April 20, 1923–May 31, 2000), born Ernesto Antonio Puente, Jr., was an Latin jazz and mambo musician. The son of native Puerto Ricans Ernest and Ercilia Puente, of Spanish Harlem in New York City, Puente is often credited as “El Rey” (the King) of the timbales and “The King of Latin Music”. He is best known for dance-oriented mambo and Latin jazz compositions that helped keep his career going for 50 years. He and his music appear in many films such as The Mambo Kings and Fernando Trueba’s Calle 54. He guest starred on several television shows including The Cosby Show and The Simpsons.

Carlos Santana (Mexico)
Carlos Augusto Alves Santana (born July 20, 1947) is a Mexican-born American Grammy Award-winning rock musician and guitarist. Santana became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered a blend of rock, salsa and jazz fusion. The band’s sound featured his melodic, blues-based guitar lines set against Latin percussion such as timbales and congas. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades. He experienced a sudden resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. Rolling Stone also named Santana number 15 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2003

Visual arts

Franck de Las Mercedes, painter
Franck de Las Mercedes, (b. 1972 in Masaya, Nicaragua) is a Nicaraguan American artist, based in New York. He was raised in a family of Nicaraguan folklore dancers, musicians and teachers, and spent his childhood immersed in the performing arts. In the mid-eighties, the Sandinista/Contra war forced Franck’s family to immigrate to New York where Mercedes grew up and worked in music and theatre, studying under Gail Noppe-Brandon. In the late nineties he began working as an artist.

He has painted small empty boxes, a public art project called the Priority Boxes, labelled with the words “PAZ”, “JUSTICIA”, “TRANQUILIDAD”, and “AMOR”, which he sends around the world for free. This mail art project started in 2006. “The Priority Boxes” project is a public art series that seeks, to make people reconsider their ability to influence change, question the fragility and priority of entities like peace, and also to communicate, interact through art and make it accessible to people from all walks of life.

Soraida Martinez, Artist, Creator of Verdadism (Mexico)
Soraida Martinez is a contemporary abstract expressionist artist who creates hard-edge paintings. She was born in Harlem, New York City, USA on July 30, 1956.

Since 1992 Soraida Martinez has been known as the creator of Verdadism, a form of hard-edge abstraction where each painting is accompanied by a written social commentary. Martinez is the only artist to write a social statement for every painting that she creates. Viewers are drawn to both the artist’s abstract paintings and her bold commentaries on humanity and the universal human condition. According to Martinez’ artist’s statement, “My art reflects the essence of my true self and the truth within me…My struggle is for recognition, acceptance and inclusion; and, against racism, sexism and the dominant eurocentric male society, which never expected much from me but still did not allow my voice to be heard. My belief is that one must empower oneself with one’s own truth…”.


Fernando Caldeiro, astronaut (Argentina)
Fernando “Frank” Caldeiro (b. June 12, 1958 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an American astronaut (Class XVI) with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona and the University of Central Florida.

Caldeiro, whose ancestors are from Galicia, is currently assigned to high altitude research flights in the NASA WB-57 aircraft.

In 2002, he was appointed to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

Mario Molina, Nobel Prize-winning chemist (Mexico)
José Mario Molina-Pasquel Henríquez (born March 19, 1943 in Mexico City) is a Mexican-born American chemist and one of the most prominent precursors to the discovering of the Antarctic ozone hole. He was a co-recipient (along Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland) of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in elucidating the threat to the Earth’s ozone layer of chlorofluorocarbon gases (or CFCs), becoming the first Mexican-born citizen to ever receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


Manu Ginóbili, NBA player (Argentina)
Emanuel David “Manu” Ginóbili (born 28 July 1977 in Bahía Blanca, Argentina) is an Argentine professional basketball player. Coming from a family of professional basketball players, he is a member of the Argentine men’s national basketball team and the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Ginóbili spent the early part of his basketball career in Argentina and Italy, where he won several individual and team honors. His stint with Italian side Kinder Bologna was particularly productive, earning two Lega A Most Valuable Player awards, the Euroleague Final Four MVP and the 2001 Euroleague and Triple Crown championships. The shooting guard was selected as the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft and is considered one of the biggest draft steals of all time. Ginóbili returned to Italy and only joined the Spurs in 2002. He did not take long to establish himself as a key player for the Spurs, and has since won three NBA championships as well as being named an All-Star in 2005. In the 2007–08 season, he was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Francisco García, NBA player (Dominican Republic)
Francisco García (born December 31, 1981, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a Dominican professional basketball player who currently plays for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. A 6’7″, 195-pound guard–forward from the University of Louisville, García was selected by the Kings in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft. He now plays a variety of positions for the Kings, and on September 25, 2008, signed a five-year extension with the Kings. It was worth $23 million.

As a college basketball player at Louisville under coach Rick Pitino he enjoyed great success along with future NBA player Reece Gaines. He averaged 15.7 points per game as a junior and, along with teammate and best friend Taquan Dean, led his 4th-seeded team to the 2005 Final Four in Saint Louis, Missouri. Forgoing his senior season, García decided to go professional and enter the ranks of the NBA. In his rookie season for the Kings, García appeared in 67 games (11 starts) and averaged 5.6 points per game.

Source: Wikipedia

Notable Hispanic and Latino Americans

List of some notable Hispanic and Latino Americans, citizens or residents of the United States with ancestry or origins in Hispanic America


Eduardo Catalano, architect (Argentina)
Eduardo Fernando Catalano (born 1917) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and came to the United States on a scholarship to the Universities of Pennsylvania and Harvard. In 1945, after earning his second Master’s Degree in architecture, Catalano taught at the Architectural Association in London until 1951, when he came back to the U.S. as a Professor of Architecture at the School of Design in Raleigh, North Carolina State University. In 1956 he began teaching in the graduate program for MIT, until 1977, when he moved on “to discover and participate in other endeavors as rewarding as teaching”
Catalano had an “understanding of the indivisible relationship between space and structure”, which earned him praise from Frank Lloyd Wright, who wrote to House and Home magazine when he saw the publishing of the “Raleigh House” AKA the Catalano House to say “It is refreshing to see that the shelter, which is the most important element in domestic architecture, has been so imaginatively and skillfully treated as in the house by Eduardo Catalano” Catalano sold the house when he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to teach at MIT. Years of neglect at the end of the 20th century culminated in the house’s demolition in 2001.

Other buildings designed by Catalano include the US embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in Pretoria, South Africa, the Juilliard School of Music at New York City’s Lincoln Center, Guilford County Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Stratton Student Center at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rafael Moneo, architect (Spain)
José Rafael Moneo Vallés (born May 9, 1937) is a Spanish architect. He was born in Tudela, Spain, and won the Pritzker Prize for architecture in 1996. He studied at the ETSAM, Technical University of Madrid (UPM) from which he received his architectural degree in 1961. From 1958 to 1961 he worked in the office in Madrid of the architect Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oíza. He has taught architecture at various locations around the world and from 1985 to 1990 was the chairman of Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he is the first Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. In 1997, he became Academic Numerary in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid in May 1997.

Spanish constructions of his design include the renovation of the Villahermosa Palace (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum) in Madrid, the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, Spain, an expansion of the Atocha Railway Station (also in Madrid), the Diestre Factory in Zaragoza, Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation in Majorca the headquarters of the Bankinter (again, in Madrid), Town Hall in Logroño. He also designed the annex to the Murcia Town Hall, which was completed in 1998. His latest work is the enlargement of the Prado Museum, its greatest expansion in 200 years of history.

Some of Moneo’s prominent works in the US include the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, the Davis Art Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and the Audrey Jones Beck Building (an expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston). Moneo also designed the Chace Center, a new building for the Rhode Island School of Design. He is currently working on an Interdepartmental Science Building at Columbia University in New York City.


José Limón, modern dancer and choreographer (Mexico)
José Arcadio Limón (January 12, 1908 – December 2, 1972) was a pioneering modern dancer and choreographer. He was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, the eldest of 12 children. He moved to New York City in 1928 where he studied under Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. In 1946, Limón founded the José Limón Dance Company. His most famous dance is The Moor’s Pavane (1949), based on Shakespeare’s Othello and set to music by Henry Purcell.

Danielle Polanco, dancer and choreographer (Puerto Rico)
Danielle Polanco (born October 26, 1985) is an elite dancer and choreographer. She is probably best known for being the leading lady in Omarion’s music video Touch and for playing in the 2008 movie Step Up 2 the Streets, in which she portrayed Missy Serrano. Polanco has an impressive resume; she has choreographed for Beyonce and Janet Jackson and has also appeared as a dancer in numerous music videos for top artists such as Beyonce, Amerie, Janet Jackson, and Usher. Danielle is a member of the House of Ninja. She is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent. She’s from and still lives in the Bronx borough of New York City. Most recently, she can be seen in the Broadway revival of West Side story as one of the Shark girls. She is the dance captain for the show.


Gisele Bündchen, model (Brazil)
Gisele Caroline Bündchen (born July 20th, 1980 in Horizontina, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) is a Brazilian model and occasional film actress. According to Forbes, she is the highest-paid model in the world and also the sixteenth richest woman in the entertainment world, with an estimated $150 million fortune.

Carolina Herrera, fashion designer (Venezuela)
Carolina Herrera (born María Carolina Josefina Pacanins y Niño on January 8, 1939), Marchioness of Torre Casa, is a venezuelan fashion designer and entrepreneur who founded her eponymous company in 1980.

Herrera was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Based in New York City since 1981, throughout the 1970s and 1980s she was named one of the best dressed women in the world. Her empire grew rapidly and steadily and she went on to dress Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for the last 12 years of her life.

Herrera is married to Reinaldo Herrera Guevara, Marqués de Torre Casa, an editor at Vanity Fair magazine, with whom she had two daughters. She was previously married to Guillermo Behrens Tello, with whom she had two daughters as well.

Carolina Herrera is a Goodwill Ambassador and Facilitator for the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, IIMSAM, and its affirmative action programme, The Right to Food Campaign Initiative Against Malnutrition and Fashion United Against Malnutrition. IIMSAM works to promote the use of micro-algae Spirulina (Spirulina Platensis) to counter malnutrition and its severe negative impacts especially in the Developing and Least Developed Countries (LDC). Carolina states: “If my work at the IIMSAM were to save the life of even one child from the forty thousand children that die of malnutrition and related diseases each day, I would consider it the greatest work of my life.”

Ms. Herrera is a recipient of The International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence.

Film and TV

Jessica Alba, actress (Mexico)
Jessica Marie Alba (born April 28, 1981) is an American television and film actress. She began her television and movie appearances at age 13 in Camp Nowhere and The Secret World of Alex Mack (1994). Alba rose to prominence as the lead actress in the television series Dark Angel (2000–2002). Alba later appeared in various films including Honey (2003), Sin City (2005), Fantastic Four (2005), Into the Blue (2005), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Good Luck Chuck both in 2007.

Alba is considered a sex symbol and often generates media attention for her looks. She appears frequently on the “Hot 100” section of Maxim and was voted number one on’s list of “99 Most Desirable Women” in 2006, as well as “Sexiest Woman in the World” by FHM in 2007. The use of her image on the cover of the March 2006 Playboy sparked a lawsuit by her, which was later dropped. She has also won various awards for her acting, including the Choice Actress Teen Choice Award and Saturn Award for Best Actress (TV), and a Golden Globe nomination for her lead role in the television series Dark Angel. Her acting has also been criticized, as she has been nominated for numerous Razzie Awards throughout her career. Alba’s offscreen, personal life has been a frequent subject of media, celebrity

Benicio del Toro, actor (Puerto Rico)
Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez (born February 19, 1967), better known as Benicio del Toro, is a Puerto Rican actor and film producer. His awards include the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award. He is known for his roles as Fred Fenster in The Usual Suspects, Javier Rodríguez Rodríguez in Traffic, Jack ‘Jackie Boy’ Rafferty in Sin City, Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Franky Four Fingers in Snatch and most recently Che Guevara in Che. He is the third Puerto Rican to win an Academy Award.


Isabel Allende, writer (Chile)
Isabel Allende Llona, (born in Lima, Peru; 2 August 1942), is a Chilean-American writer. Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the “magic realist” tradition, is one of the first successful women writers in Latin America. She is largely famous for her contributions to Latin-American literature, novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus) (1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias) (2002), which have been hugely successful. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at ten American colleges. Having adopted American citizenship in 2003, she currently resides in California along with her husband. Her writings are comparable to those of Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Louise Erdrich and Laura Esquivel. Isabel Allende is of Basque, Spanish and Portuguese descent.

Gabriel García Márquez, author (Colombia)
Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez (born March 6, 1927) is a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. García Márquez, affectionately known as “Gabo” throughout Latin America, is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He pursued a self-directed education that resulted in his leaving law school for a career in journalism. From early on, he showed no inhibitions in his criticism of Colombian and foreign politics. In 1958, he married Mercedes Barcha; they have two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

He started as a journalist, and has written many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best-known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). His works have achieved significant critical acclaim and widespread commercial success, most notably for popularizing a literary style labeled as magical realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations. Some of his works are set in a fictional village called Macondo, and most of them express the theme of solitude.

Source: Wikipedia

The History, Culture and Importance of Hispanic Americans

By Swapna Kasturi

Hispanic America or Spanish America refers to the region which constitutes American countries that are inhabited by Spanish speaking people. There are several places that are dominated by Spanish speaking populations and as such, a common thread runs among these inhabited places and Spain mainly because of the fact that all these places were formerly colonies of Spain. In almost all these countries, the pre-dominant language is either only Spanish or Spanish along with several other local languages. The countries that make up Hispanic America are Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Hispanic Americans are related to Spain and comprise 15.1% of the total population of the United States of America. In fact, Hispanic Americans constitute the second largest ethnic group in the U.S. Hispanic Americans are the second fastest growing community in the U.S and have been around since 1565 when St. Augustine in Florida was founded. The term “Hispanic” was first used by the U.S government, during the Presidency of Richard Nixon and has stayed on from then. From 1950, when there were less than 4 million Hispanics to today, when the total number of Hispanics in the U.S is 45 million, Hispanic Americans have come a long way. Hispanic Americans have emerged from the shadows and proved themselves as a force to reckon with.

Their contribution to America is outstanding. Hispanics have actively contributed and participated in the American War of Independence, Civil War, Cuban War, World War I and II and the Vietnam War. They have also made major contributions to the fields of art, science, entertainment, politics, business, fashion, literature, technology and sports. Most of the Hispanics can speak Spanish. Another aspect that connects all Hispanic Americans is the problems that they face. Common issues such as education, poverty, unemployment, Hispanophobia have been and are faced by Hispanics. Hispanic Americans are working very hard to eliminate all these problems and an active improvement in trends concerning these issues can be observed. Thus, Hispanic Americans will definitely pave the way to a brighter future and contribute their part in strengthening and improving America’s resources, finances and culture.

¿HABLAS ESPAÑOL? Officers practicing Spanish to improve communication with Hispanic residents

The language barrier in St. Joseph between English- and Spanish-speaking communities is being broken down in small steps.

St. Joseph Police Department training officer Marla Wilson said in an effort to bridge the cultural gap, 15 officers, as well as other officials and members of the community, recently participated in a three-day Spanish language training course at the Buchanan County Law Enforcement Center.

Ms. Wilson said she brought the class to the LEC after seeing an increasing need for police officers to become more familiar with the language. It worked out so well, she said, that she’s looking into booking a second, advanced-language course.

“It was a very, very good class. I’m sure all of the (police officers) got a lot out of it,” she said.

Ron Strader, a warrant officer, said not being familiar with the language in his job is quite a challenge.

“If I run into a home where no one can speak English, I can’t do my job effectively,” he said.

Even though the department has one officer fluent in Spanish, as well as a list of translators on call, it’s more effective to cut out the middle man.

“We do have the resources,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not practical in the heat of it to say, ‘Hold on, I’m going to need to call my translator while you’re holding that gun.’”

Rachel McCoy, director of communications for Community Action Partnership, which works with Spanish-speaking individuals and families in St. Joseph, said the class is a positive action in bridging the cultural gap.

“We’re very encouraged they would be so progressive to put law enforcement in classes that teach Spanish,” she said.

Classes such as the one at the LEC are vital to St. Joseph’s community growth, Ms. McCoy said. Beyond just practicing a language course such as Rosetta Stone, she also reminds people that nothing is more useful than human interaction.

“There has to be a passion for the language. Without direct communication, so much is lost in the meaning of what people are saying,” she said.

Currently, Mr. Strader said police officers have been practicing courtesy phrases, as well as commands such as “let me see your license and insurance” and “I need you to stop.” Beyond the class, learning Spanish isn’t mandated by the department, but Mr. Strader said it’s something he realizes he needs to stay sharp on.

“It’s not something where we have to sit down every day and do. But I do practice the words because it’s one of those … perishable languages. If you don’t use it, you lose it,” he said.

Ms. McCoy said Community Action Partnership is looking into future programs to help English- and Spanish-speaking people meet and have a better understanding of each other’s cultures. She said she hopes the Police Department will be involved as well.

“So many other communities have come out and welcomed this culture,” she said. “St. Joseph is capable of giving, like so many other cities have.”


Police receptionist in Anderson helps break Spanish language barrier

ANDERSON — Nora Punales was happy to get a job at the Anderson Police Department as a receptionist.

Turns out, the police department got a bargain; Punales speaks fluent English and Spanish. Those skills have helped the department and Hispanic visitors or prisoners cross the language barrier nearly every day.

It’s not that she’s not needed as a receptionist – she does “a little bit of everything” in that job. But beyond some police officers with limited Spanish skills, she’s the only person staff members can call on to help translate.

Anderson, like most Southern towns, has seen the growth of its Hispanic population.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s three-year estimates for 2005-2007, about 2 percent, or 3,200, of Anderson County residents are Hispanic. But officials have long said the Census underestimates the number of Hispanics because they are reluctant to be counted.

The Pew Hispanic Center put the Anderson County number at 3,531 in 2007. The center reported that 2,500 Hispanics were living in Oconee County in 2007, about 4 percent of the population. In Greenville County, the number was more than 29,000 in 2007.

Punales, 53, was hired in November on a temporary basis, but officials have been able to find enough money to continue her job for another year. She moved here after her husband began a job as a welder.

Her daily duties involve answering the phones, filing, helping people with questions and other duties. But her translation skills now are put to use in “a good 40 to 45 percent” of the job, she said.

It may be helping someone who speaks little English who needs to know about visitation for an inmate, or translating an officer’s explanation of the charges against someone brought to the station. Or it could be simply giving someone directions to another government agency, such as Department of Motor Vehicles or to Social Security offices.

Punales, who moved to Anderson about a year ago, was not expecting to need her language skills much when she took the job. But that quickly changed.

“I was very surprised when I moved here there were so many Spanish-speaking people,” she said.

The three dialects she’s heard are from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, she said.

She discovered there were a number of people coming to the police department front desk unable to explain what they needed.

“Some come in, and I notice they have a problem speaking,” she said. “When I talk to them, they say, ‘Oh God, thank you for having someone who speaks Spanish.’”

Some people bring their children to translate, but children may not know how to explain some words appropriately, Punales said.

Angela White, a medical assistant at the department, said Punales is able to put Spanish-speaking visitors or inmates at ease.

“Once she opens her mouth, and they realize someone understands what they are saying, they calm down,” White said. “That fear is gone.”

When a Spanish-speaking inmate needs medical help, Punales is called to translate for the inmate and the nurse.

Punales’ supervisor, Amy Sexton, said the staff members have done the best they could in the past, trying to write down information or find some common connection.

“We tried to talk ourselves, but usually they don’t understand,” Sexton said. “It’s made a great difference in being able to communicate.”

Now, people who know Punales can help them will seek her out at the station.

“We have Spanish-speaking people call and ask for her,” said Sue Miller, a detention officer.

Punales, who is originally from Cuba, said her family spoke Spanish at home, and she spoke English at school. She believes people who come to the United States should adapt to the culture.

“You are coming to a place that’s not your place, so you have to learn … the culture,” she said.

The police department is a good place to work, she said.

“Ever since I started working here, I have really enjoyed it,” she said. “It is a very nice atmosphere.”


3 more schools add bilingual immersion programs

The popularity of dual-language classes in Ventura County schools continues to grow, with three schools starting programs this fall.

Ventura Unified School District started a two-way immersion kindergarten class at Montalvo School about a decade ago. Five more dual-language programs have since come online at elementary and middle schools in Camarillo, Rio, Hueneme and Ventura.

In the fall, three more campuses are expected to be added to the list. Classes are set to start at Tierra Vista in the Ocean View School District; Juan Soria, a new campus in the Oxnard School District, and at Will Rogers in Ventura, which will start the district’s first schoolwide program.

“I think parents throughout the state recognize the value of having their kids be bilingual and biliterate. It’s a huge advantage,” said Associate Superintendent Roger Rice of the Ventura County Office of Education.

The county office plans to start regular meetings in the fall, bringing educators in the dual-language programs together to share best practices, Rice said.

All the local programs are offered in Spanish and English, and in most cases, classes are split evenly between native English and native Spanish speakers. The schools differ, however, in some aspects, including the amount of time students in the programs spend learning in each language.

“We’re really excited,” said Ocean View Assistant Superintendent Marcia Turner. Tierra Vista will have two dual-immersion kindergarten classes this fall, Turner said. Classes will have about one-third Spanish-speakers, one-third English-speakers and one-third bilingual students.
May attract students, funding

District and school officials had planned to reach out to the community with an information campaign to fill the available spots. But after announcing the move at the spring open house, families signed up, filling every seat.

In Ventura, the first class of two-way immersion students at Montalvo will move to high school this fall, having finished immersion classes at Anacapa Middle School. Many already have met college entrance requirements for foreign language studies.

“We knew there was plenty of interest to have a second program,” said Jennifer Robles, a bilingual education director for Ventura schools. This year, about 20 families were on a waiting list at Montalvo School.

Those students were offered a spot at Will Rogers, which will have dual-immersion in all four of its kindergarten classes this August.

Each year, as students move up a class, a grade level will be added to the program.

With the state’s fiscal crisis prompting layoffs and other cuts at local districts, officials said some might question why schools would start new programs. Dual-immersion doesn’t cost the district more money to run than current programs, Robles said, and it benefits students.

Turner said Ocean View officials think it might eventually bring more funding to the district by attracting more students.

Teaching students in Spanish began to disappear in California public schools after voters approved Proposition 227 in 1998, which banned bilingual education unless parents of English learners sign a yearly waiver consenting to the class.
Families see benefit

In two-way or dual-immersion programs, English learners and speakers learn two languages, unlike some bilingual programs in which native Spanish speakers learn in Spanish only until they master English.

Families want their kids to learn a second language while keeping their first language, Robles said, and the dual-immersion programs allow that to happen.

Carlos Avila’s daughter Penelope, 5, will start kindergarten at Will Rogers in August.

“I want her to know that it’s OK to speak a different language,” Avila said. His parents were fluent in English and Spanish, but he learned Spanish only by taking classes in school.

He took part in a student exchange program in Spain. There, he said, children are encouraged to learn multiple languages, unlike the culture he has experienced in the United States.

Because of his family’s Spanish-speaking history, Avila loves that his daughter will learn Spanish and English. But, he added, “I would love to see (programs) not just in Spanish but other languages, too.”


Hispanics have a wild card to play

Did you know that Hispanics are less impacted by the recession, and their overall outlook about the condition of our economy is more optimistic? They are also more avid shoppers and have a tendency to react better to TV advertising than the general population. The Hispanic consumer is able to rebound quicker to trends than their non-Hispanic counterparts. In other words, they are prime prospects in today’s troubled marketplace.

Years ago in junk mail, we discovered that many Spanish-speaking potential customers wanted to be contacted in their native language, so linguists were hired in the copy-writing field to translate junk mail offers into Spanish. It worked gangbusters, and the concept has once again been confirmed by a study done on Hispanics for Univision Communications, the premier Spanish-language media company in the U.S.

Here are some figures you probably did not know. Just 45 percent of Hispanics carry credit cards compared to 71 percent for non-Hispanics. And even a lesser amount take out loans, only 34 percent versus 53 percent for non-Hispanics. They shop more frequently than non-Hispanics, take more brand prescriptions, and pay more attention to advertising. Univision says that marketers have determined recently that Hispanic sales have outdone non-Hispanic sales.

The buying power of the Hispanic community is growing at a rate 50 percent faster than non-Hispanic, and Univision predicts it will hit $1 trillion by 2010. Some of the reasons might be that Hispanics are more optimistic about their finances by almost 10 percentage points, the same margin being optimistic about the economy. About twice as many Hispanics rent their home compared to non-Hispanic, therefore, less are affected by the wave of foreclosures.

On the surface, it looks like Hispanics are better able to manage their finances, and more prominent in the marketplace as shoppers than non-Hispanics. So why isn’t the Hispanic community using this buying power to negotiate better rights for their families and friends? They made a good start in the 2008 Presidential election as they got out the vote that gave Barack Obama a margin of 56 percent over John McCain’s 41 percent in Arizona. Nationwide it was 67 percent Obama, 31 percent McCain.

Hispanics cast 9.7 million votes in 2008 (7.3%) out of 132.6 million voters nationally. There were 19.5 million eligible Hispanic voters in 2008, and less than 50 percent of those registered to vote actually went to the polls. You’ll have to do better than that, even though the total turnout was only 56.8 percent. You’ll have to beat the general population if you want to make your point and convince this Congress that you are serious about your rights. In Arizona, Hispanics represent 13 percent of the vote.

On July 2, I did an article on why Republican dominance is on its way out in Arizona, “The elephant has left the room Arizona so you’d better get used to it,” that emphasized the new Independent voter impact—more Democrat, more moderate—as well as the increase in the Hispanic vote. Washington, D.C. think Tank, NDN, believes Hispanic voters could turn Arizona into a Blue state.

A comment from the above article asked me to define a “fair” immigration law, and inquired why I skirted the word amnesty. Maybe the day has come for Hispanic activists to join together and “define” exactly what they would consider a “fair” immigration bill and take their thoughts to Congress as a unified group that represents all Hispanics. The current situation is not one we will be able to contain much longer.

By: Jack Dunning