Page 1

Mi Historia

Design by Sandra García www.mandalamaker.com

Latinos today in Western North Carolina

“One day, I was rehabbing a house in a rural part of the county, and I needed to go to the hardware store. When I entered, a group of men wearing overalls stopped talking and looked at me, ‘Are you a foreigner?’ I told him that I was from Uruguay. He looked at me and said, ‘Do you know what we do to foreigners here?’ I said no, and used the universal language—a smile. The owner went into the back for about 10 minutes but it felt like 10 years for me. When he came back, he was carrying a piece of chocolat cake. He gave it to me and said, ‘This is what we do to foreigners.’ I know that racism exists, and this is not everyone’s experience. My message for people is to remember that it is your attitude that creates a reaction. Just be you.” –Gustavo Silva

Thanks to: María Lomelí-García, Sarah Nuñez, Victor Palomino, Laura Simmelink and Sandra García for their time, talent and creativity in this project. Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education

Nationally, Latinos comprised 17.4% of the total population in 2014.

By the year 2050, the Hispanic population in the United States will constitute

about 30% of the total population. It is the nation’s largest minority group in the United States. Among the Latino subgroups, Mexicans ranked as the largest with 63% of the total population being from that origin. Followed by Mexicans are the Puerto Ricans (9.2%), Cubans (3.5%), Salvadoreans (3.3%), Dominicans (2.8%), and the remaining 18.2% are people from other Latin American nationalities. Currently, Latinos make up 8.4% of the population in North Carolina. It ranks as the 11th state in the United States with a large Latino population. It is important to remember that the term Latino includes people of different races, cultures, nationalities, genders, and even includes people whose primary language is not Spanish. Hispanics is a term used by the census to refer to people of Spanish (Espaùa) heritage.

These families, from all over the Americas, bring their diverse histories, dialects, music, recipes, skills, dreams, and aspirations to add a special flavor to stories of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each person has experienced a significant transition as they have become acculturated to their new life here. There are people in this exhibit who are not of Latino heritage but are deeply involved with the Latino community. What do we need to know about one another to be better friends, co-workers, and fellow citizens? How are these new community members changing the face of North Carolina? Mi Historia presents the eye witness testimony of some of our residents of our mountain home.

Contents copyright Š 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education

Contents Why I Came


Economic Vitality


Identity Development


Culture - Language & Religion


Culture - Foods & Holidays


Culture - Arts & Recreation




Inmigrant Realities


Service Providers


Contents copyright Š 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education

Why I Came Many Latinos in Buncombe County left their home countries because of war or other political reasons, widespread poverty and high unemployment, or the effects of devastating natural disasters. Others came to the US to marry someone they had fallen in love with or to attend college.

People from many Latin American countries come to the United States for a variety of reasons. Latinos come to the United States from over 23 countries located in North America, Central America and South America. These countries are culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse. North America, which includes Canada, the US, and Mexico, includes only 1 Latin American country, Mexico. Central America, an isthmus, connects North America to South America, contains 7 Latin American countries and 4 countries in the Caribbean. Lastly, South America contains 12 countries. People of South America mostly speak Spanish or Portuguese and other indigenous languages. Latinos traditions are a mixture of Indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as immigrants from Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Contents copyright Š 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


José Luis Cardona’s reasons for moving to Buncombe County were economic. “I wanted my sons to go to college, but I wondered how I would pay their tuition on my salary as an accountant. That’s why I came here. I make more money here in construction than in Guatemala as a professional.”

Gustavo Silva came to the U.S. in the late 1980s. He grew up in Uruguay in the 1970s just as much of South America fell under dictatorships. “While I was in college, I was elected president of the student body. I was popular and could bring about consensus between the right and the left. When the president of Uruguay would come to town, they would invite me to sit on the podium with him. I wanted to be President of Uruguay someday. Then a military dictatorship took control of Uruguay, and one night, they came and took me away to a military base. They locked me in a small cell. They beat me and threatened to kill me. After 8 days, I was released because my uncle was Chief of Police and my family was well-known. My hope to be President of Uruguay vanished. I went to Argentina to finish college. I remember the day the military there entered my class on horseback and closed down the school. Eventually, I came to Asheville, where I set up a construction business. From my point of view, in the United States there is order and opportunity. That is remarkable.”

Antonio García, originally from El Salvador, emphatically says, “My reasons for coming to the US are the reasons of every immigrant: to live a better life, to be able to help their families and their countries, to get out of poverty. Just that: to be able to live a better life. So that’s why I came to the US, and that’s why people come. For us, that’s our history really. As Hispanics, there is a lot of suffering in our countries, and we want to live a little better. I haven’t really met anybody, a Hispanic person that is here because they just wanted to come and have a good time. NO, they all come to work.”

Samuel and Dilicia Rodríguez explained why they moved their family to the U.S., “We did not come here to find work or the ‘American Dream’. We came because our middle child, Loyda, is autistic, and special education is not available in Honduras. The government does not invest money in that. Our neighbor in Honduras was a missionary from Asheville, and he made the arrangements for us. We have seen Loyda make a lot of progress in her special education classes and are happy about that.”

Luciana Suskauer explains that the history of Brazil

mirrors that of the United States. Portuguese explorers arrived in 1500 taking the land of the indigenous people, killing, and enslaving them. By the 1600’s the Portuguese started to bring slaves from West Africa . The practice flourished in Brazil and was not abolished until the late 19th century. Brazil, larger than the continental US and the only Portuguese speaking nation in South America, is a mixture of people of Indigenous, European, Asian, Middle Eastern and African heritage. Luciana grew up in São Paulo, the third largest city in the world with 18 million residents in the metro area. She met her husband, David Suskauer, at a party for the Atlanta Friendship Force, and after a brief courtship, she joined him in Asheville where he worked as a jeweler. They were soon married and now have three children. “David made everything so much easier for me by helping me improve my English skills and get familiar with the culture ”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Economic Vitality & Working According to a 2010 report by Dr. Jeffrey M. Humphreys, “North Carolina’s Hispanic consumer market has expanded rapidly, energizing the state’s economy as never before. North Carolina’s Hispanic buying power – $14.2 billion – exceeds its 2000 value – $5.1 billion – by 179 %, a percentage gain that is substantially higher than the 108 percent increase in U.S. Hispanic buying power. Despite the nearly three-fold increase in eleven years, North Carolina ranks 16th in the rankings of the nation’s ‘fastest growing’ Hispanic markets.”

FranciscoOCastelblanco immigrated with his mom from Colombia as a child. He is a registered nurse and Director of Regional Services for Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). In his previous role as a nurse at Mission Hospital, a major component of his work entailed providing health screenings to underserved communities. Remembering a few years ago, he said, “I was checking cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressures for a Latino family and the father, Carlos, insisted that every member go before him. When his turn came, he refused. He gave several reasons, but ultimately he was afraid to find out if he was diabetic. He had a long family history of the disease and many family members had died as a result. We tested him, and he was in fact diabetic. At that point, we provided him with a glucose monitor, testing strips, and an appointment with a primary care doctor for follow up. I explained that he had the ability to help himself, to control his future, and to control this disease. I asked him to do this for his family. I've seen him several times throughout the years, and he is doing very well.” Francisco takes the heart rate of Alikhan Salehi. Photo by Sarah Nuñez

Doris Pacheco is from Arequipa, Perú. “I am working in a factory called Medical Action Industries, Inc. We assemble medical products and kits for hospitals. I work there as a group leader and team auditor. This country offers opportunities that are not in my country. I miss my family and that’s where part of my heart is. I miss the customs and the people, but I do have the chance through Skype to communicate with my family members. I have future plans to visit my family. I was able to become a U.S. citizen, and I have been grateful for that. I would like to work in a bank or offer financial services to people, and I want to get a better position one day. While I was in Peru, I studied English. I thought I never would use this language because I never planned to come to the United States when I was in college! The good thing is that I learned the language, and it has helped me a lot. I know my daughters will have better educational and career opportunities here.” Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Evangelina Barajas is from Guadalajara, Mexico, and has worked as a tax preparer and accountant for CAM Services. “I work with Hispanic businesses ranging from Mexican restaurants to small painting or construction businesses. I do their payrolls. I even help out with translating correspondences that come from schools for parents and documents that come from the IRS. When I came to the United States, there were no people or organizations that could help you with things like this. As the Latino population grew here, the community started to look for people who spoke their language. I want to teach people about taxes and accounting and leave them with the feeling that they learned from me. I can teach people how to open a business and even how to close one. A lot of people aren’t aware that they don’t have to have a social security number to run a business. They just need to have an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to do taxes.”

Home Cleaning Professionals is a cooperative that offers cleaning services to homes in Western North Carolina. A worker-owned cooperative is a business owned and operated by members who earn their own profits and manage themselves. Karina Quiñones is the administrator of this business owned by Mexican and Hondurean women. One of the members says, “We love our work because we are owners of our own business and we are our own bosses. We earn fair wages, and we like to do our work: creating clean homes.”

Dulce Porras is from Puebla, Mexico. She came when she was 18 years old and has lived in the United States for 10 years. She is the coordinator for a program called Consulta tu Compa (Consult your Friend) at Nuestro Centro. Nuestro Centro has many services. Dulce talks about doing community referrals, translating birth certificates, scheduling appointments for people to go to the Mexican Consulate, and assisting family members of people arrested in North Carolina or out of the state. She says, “I’m the only staff at the Center and the rest are volunteers workingfor our office. It’s about bringing resources to the community and to assist people who have a question or problem.”

Dulce Porras from Nuestro Centro in Asheville. Photo by Sarah Nuñez

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Identity Development The process of becoming both Latino and American is a different process for each individual. For many people there are difficult barriers of language and cultural differences to overcome in order to be integrated into life in the U.S. Depending on education level or having the time to study English, these new residents may adjust within a matter of months or the process may take years.

Often, there are subtle cultural differences that can make accurate communication difficult and lead to misunderstanding.

Carmen Alicia Moncayo de Ayala explains, “Sometimes without knowing the cultural differences you can hurt other people’s feelings, so it is important to know them. For example, several Anglos have questioned me why we don’t look in their eyes when we talk. It seems like we are being disrespectful but in our culture it is different - it is a sign of respect. Another cultural difference is that here it is so important to be on time. We are more relaxed about time in Latin America. We believe the person we are with at the moment is more important than anything else so we don’t rush off to something else.”

For many people, the process of leaving their family and living in another culture is a difficult one.

José Alfredo Jimenez Martín moved here from the small

José Alfredo Jimenez Martín is from Hidalgo, Mexico. Photo by Laura Simmelink

village of Xothi, in Hidalgo, Mexico. Xothi means “untied”. The word is from the native language of the Otomí people. “I was happy in Mexico, but I had to come help make money for my family. I miss my family. Sometimes they get sick, and I can’t go to visit. I need to stay here and work. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night when I think about my mother and father in Mexico or whether I will stay here or go back there soon. Other times, I can’t sleep because sometimes when I am at work and people think I can’t speak English, they start saying bad things about Hispanic people. But I think, ‘Well, I’m here. I just have to work and be strong. That’s it.’ In Mexico, I could help my father to fix things, work in the garden, or chop wood for cooking. Or I could go into the mountains to hunt, and we would eat what we hunted. Or I could go to the closest city and try to talk with girls. But here, I don’t know where to go. Sometimes the white people – the Anglos – they just look at you and you can see they don’t like to see you walking around. A lot of people are nice and say hello, but others don’t want me there. But I’m glad that I can work in the U.S. and help my family.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Sarah Nuñez was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and raised in North Carolina. “I identify as Colombian- American. I think it is important to recognize that my identity experience in North Carolina is different from what others may experience in larger states like Texas, California, and New York. NC doesn’t have the same history like places with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations of Latinos. I live in two worlds as a 1.5 generation immigrant, as a white and Colombian woman, as an English and Spanish speaker, as an activist and an ally, and as a woman who wants to embrace both Colombian and United Statesian values. I live each day with each of my feet planted in two worlds. It has been an interesting process to discover my own identity and to recognize that everyone sees me different, even if they don’t know me, my story, or how I identify. To the Anglo community, I’m Latina, and to the Latino community, I’m not 100% Colombian because I don’t speak Spanish perfectly and I grew up in North Carolina. When I was 20, I went back to Colombia and Sarah Nuñez in the south of Brazil in 2011 . Photo courtesy of Sarah Nuñez lived for 1 year. I took Spanish classes, learned to dance salsa, cooked traditional Colombian dishes, learned my family history, navigated the busy streets of Bogotá, and there I was an American with Colombian heritage. I have dual nationality but that paperwork does not make me 100% of anything. One thing I am sure of is that I am 100% Sarah Nuñez regardless of my race, place of birth, where I grew up, or what language I speak”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Culture Language & Religion Latinos can find learning English a challenging experience when they move to the United States. They are often too busy working to take classes or may find transportation and child care a problem. Children often acquire English more quickly than their parents because they are enrolled in school. They are often asked to interpret conversations and translate documents for their parents. This is a new experience for these families that shifts the traditional parent-child relationship.

Lango Asheville, LLC teaches children from a young age how to speak other languages such as Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Colombian Sandra Brown (R) is the owner and is pictured with Spanish teacher Diana Parra (L). They teach children simple words that children can speak anywhere!

Brenda Villa Borges and her cousins, Sandy and Kevin Villa Ruvalcaba, moved to Asheville from the town of Actopan, in Hidalgo, Mexico, with their families and began school at Jones Elementary in March of 2003. The move has brought Brenda, Sandy, and Kevin the new responsibility of translating for their parents. Kevin describes his experience, “I was 6 years old and [have been] here for just a few months. One day, we went to the store, and the store clerk couldn’t understand what my parents were saying. I interpreted for them. I was excited and proud to be able to do it.” His cousin, Brenda, shares a similar experience, “I went to the dentist with my aunt and my uncle and my parents, and I interpreted for them what the dentist was saying. It’s a big responsibility because we might make a mistake. We read cards that come in the mail, letters from the doctor and the bank, electric and telephone bills, and letters from the school to our parents. We also help translate the T.V. and the newspapers. It’s a big responsibility to read the bills and letters because they’re important. Sometimes at school we translate for the teachers and the new kids who only speak Spanish. We like to translate for the new kids; it’s fun and we like to help them out.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


As Hispanics come to the United States, many integrate into the American culture and try not to lose their native language. As time progresses through generations, it is the third generation of Hispanics (people born in the United States and have both of their parents born in the United States) where they adopt English as their main language. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, among the foreign born or first generation Hispanics, the majority (61%) are Spanish dominant, 33% bilingual, and 6% are English dominant. In the case for second generation Hispanics (U.S. born children of immigrants), Spanish dominance is 8%, those who are bilingual rises to 53%, and those who are English dominant increases to 40%. The third generations of Hispanics are either bilingual (29%) or English dominant (69%). Many established area churches are now offering services in Spanish to augment their English services, and new Latino-oriented churches are also being established. Services in Spanish provide many people with a sense of connection to their birth country through the language and music. Spanish-language services tend to have more music and congregational activities. They also provide the opportunity to spend time with others who share similar experiences.

Antonio García is the Hispanic Ministry Coordinator with the Asheville Vicariate of the Catholic Church. He recounts a powerful experience in a Spanish-language service when he first came to the United States at age 16. “I went to church with my sister and the family the day after I arrived in New Jersey. I was in church listening and it was exactly the same as it was in El Salvador. I started to cry. The Catholic Church is universal, and the mass is exactly the same around the world. It was so amazing. I connected in a way that made me feel like I was home. The prayer the priest was reading is exactly the same prayer that Padre Pancho reads in El Salvador. What changes is the language. If you change a prayer from English to Spanish it will be exactly the same thing.”

Having a quinceañera party is common in Latin America for any girl who is transitioning to womanhood at the age of 15. It is a celebration that usually has a mass service and a party afterwards! Salvadorean American, Diana Marquez, shares, “What my 15 year celebration was a way for me to keep in touch with my cultural roots and not get lost in a copletely different culture just because I live here.” Photo courtesy of Diana Marquez

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Culture Food & Holidays Carmen Alicia Moncayo de Ayala, her husband, Yuri, and their daughter, Bianca, moved here from Quito, Ecuador, in 1999. Bianca explains, “I’m making something that tastes good, an empanada. It’s dough wrapped around a filling and fried. To us it means joy because it’s something to share with the family and all the people who come over to our house.

Carmen Alicia and Bianca are picture here making empanadas. Photo by Laura Simmelink

My great-grandmother showed my mother how to make this when she was my age. I’d like to teach my friends how to make the empanadas so they would know how the tradition goes.” Carmen Alicia says that making empanadas means more to her than just making something to eat. “I’m far from my land and the family I love, but when I make empanadas, I can travel with my heart. When I’m doing this with my hands, I can remember my grandmother’s and mother’s hands, and Bianca can picture her great-grandmother. I can tell her that there would be laughter and fun as we made the empanadas. We recently made these for some friends, and later, they invited us to their home and shared a traditional Southern meal with us.”

Brenda Villa Borges moved to Buncombe County with her mother, Magda, from the state of Hidalgo, Mexico, in March of 2003. Her father, Enrique, had come to the area five years earlier to work, so the move reunited the family. Brenda’s first experience with U.S. style food was at school. Brenda explains some of the differences, “Sometimes at school they try to make Mexican food, but it doesn’t taste Mexican. They don’t use chilies, and they put sugar in the beans. My favorite foods at school are the mashed potatoes and salads, but I love food my mom and dad and my aunt and uncle cook.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


SilviaOBahena explains how her family celebrates the birthday of a religious figure called the Virgen de Guadalupe, a national holiday in Mexico. An incredible list of miracles, cures, and interventions are attributed to her. “On this day, December 12, people go to the church at dawn and sing las mañanitas to her. This is a special song that a person’s friends and family sing to them at daybreak on their birthday. Later that evening, parents dress up their youngest children and bring them to the church. The reason we follow traditions is because our mother did them and our mother’s mother. We don’t ask why we do them; we just do it. But if we are here without our families, there is no reason to follow the traditions. It’s okay, I am here and this is how it is.”

The Virgin of Guadalupe is an important religious figure in Latin America. Yearly, an estimated 10 million people visit her Basilica in Mexico City, making it the most visited after the Vatican in Rome. Photo courtesy of Photo Rivas

El Día del Niño is a popular celebration in Latin America

The Día del Niño

festival is held at Jackson Park in Hendersonville. Día del Niño is a holiday that has traditionally been celebrated in many Latin American countries. The festival is full of children’s games and activities, musical and talent performances, and authentic Latin American food. The festival draws around 3,000 people each year, and local business owners greatly benefit from this opportunity to offer their products and services. Evelyn Alarcon from El Centro says, “It is a festivity that is quite unique, full of laughter and play, when adults are reminded of the importance of childhood and children teach us how joyful and simple life can be. Children's Day is always filled with activities, and children look forward to a holiday on their own with fun, gifts, and special events.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Culture Arts & Recreation Playing soccer, going to the park, playing music, dancing, or visiting a festival helps the Latino community bring a favorite, familiar pastime into a new geography.

Jesús Díaz, of Mexico City and

Soccer is a very popular sport in Latin America countries.

Coach for Kvars soccer team, shares, “It doesn’t matter what nationality my players are from. They have the doors open to play soccer on my team. I have Mexicans, Salvadoreans, Hondureans, Americans, and one from Jamaica. When I was little, I used to play soccer just to have fun. But as I have matured, I trained my soccer players, and I developed a friendship with the game. A lot of friends I have made out of Asheville have been from Charlotte, Atlanta, Greensboro, and Tennessee and all through soccer. Our team is currently the champion of Asheville. Even though Kvars is a team, it’s more like a family.”

Victor Palomino, of Bogotá, Colombia, came to Asheville with a degree in film and photography. He has spent many years doing community outreach and art across Western North Carolina. His latest project is a school bus named Chiva (the word used for buses in rural Colombia). With Chiva, Victor and the Chiva team do story collection and mobile art workshops in communities across the region. The purpose of the Chiva bus is to transport oportunities to people.

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Sandra García displaying her art at Fiesta Latina. Photo by Sarah Nuñez

Elio González explains, “Fiesta Latina has been happening for 14 years… They hired me to work on the entertainment part of the show for the experience I have had in Charlotte. Now I’m the coordinator, and it is now organized by Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS). We always do it during Hispanic Heritage month and we show our culture, our food, our folklore…[To]show to the people the beauty of Latin America. Something nice we did last year was have a king and queen contest where the candidates did a dance from their native countries. Fiesta Latina also brings food from across the Americas.”

Jesús Hinojosa is from Mexico City.

He shares, “My first dance in Asheville was an Aztec dance. For every dance you have different clothes to wear for them. One time, they asked me, ‘Tell me a dance that would represent Mexico.’ I told them that’s hard to answer! Every state in Mexico has different dances. Puebla has its dances. Queretaro has its dances. Guanajuato has its dances. Sinaloa has its dances. It just doesn’t end! My mother didn’t finish elementary school. She didn’t know how to read and write. She only knew how to write her name. My mom said, ‘I feel embarrassed that my children are good in school and when I go to their school I won’t understand anything.’ So, she went to adult school. The school was close to my parents’ house. She worked hard and she finished school. In April, my mother told my sister and I, ‘On May 10th, there is going to be festival at my school, and I want you guys to dance for me.’ We said yes! Everyone loved it! We danced the best we could! I dance to see if someone, like a teenager or a child, [grows to be] interested to become a dancer.” Jesús Hinojosa at Fiesta Latina in 2007. Photo by Dennis Merrit

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


School Liliana Duarte moved here with her parents and sister because of high unemployment in Colombia. Liliana spoke no English when she arrived. “I moved here when I was 14.

Liliana Duarte speaks fluent English now but remembers her early months here, “The bilingual dictionary was my best friend for the first six or seven months. If it was not with me, I was lost!” Photo by Laura Simmelink

The first day of school I went to homeroom, but I didn’t know where to go after that. I had a piece of paper but I couldn’t read it, and I ended up in the lunchroom. I was very confused. Then a student saw me, looked at my paper, and said something to me. I couldn’t understand what she said. She led me to a classroom and left me there. Later, I missed the bus home because I didn’t know where or when I was supposed to get on it. It was an awful day. Now it’s better because I can say what I need to. I hardly ever need to use the bi-lingual dictionary anymore to look up a word. The dictionary was my best friend for six or seven months. If it was not with me, I was lost! In the beginning, I needed to look up every word in a sentence. It was exhausting, and I would get so tired of it! But if you don’t do it, you can’t learn. You have to make a sacrifice to learn. I remember the day I read a whole page without looking up a single word; that was a happy day for me! In high school, we had to give a ten-minute speech in English class. I had never spoken English in front of the class before. I was very, very scared. I talked to the teacher about it, and she let me practice the speech alone with her first. She helped me say all the words right. The whole speech was from memory. Some students were so surprised to see me up there speaking English because they remembered when I spoke none. The teacher was so happy! I made a 99. I was proud because it’s very hard to give a speech from memory for ten minutes in English. My mom kept the grade up on the fridge for months and my brother-in-law sent me a gift to congratulate me.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Sandy Villa Ruvalcaba moved to Asheville from Actopán, Hidalgo, Mexico. She remembers her first days at Jones Elementary, “At first I felt shy and scared because I didn’t know how to speak English. I didn’t know what the food was either; there was some kind of meat and gravy with mashed potatoes. I had never seen mashed potatoes before. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to use a fork or a spoon. It was confusing, and everbody was looking at me. I felt really shy. The schools here are very different than in Mexico. Here there are so many rules. There we didn’t have school buses. Actopán was so small that we walked to school. It was very scary to get on the bus the first day. My mom was worried because she thought we might get on the wrong bus and get lost. When we got on the bus, some of the kids were jumping in their seats and throwing paper. They hit us in the head with it. We thought this was because we were new and didn’t speak English. We felt bad. Now we know this is kind of normal, but then we didn’t know what was going on.”

Sandy Villa Rubalcava and her family. Photo by Laura Simmelink

Abel Lomelí-García is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photo by María Lomelí-García

Mexican American, Abel Lomelí-García, talks about his excitement to go to college, “It’s been my dream to go to Chapel Hill since I was a small kid. Looking at Michael Jordan and hearing so much about the college inspired me. I don’t feel like I only represent my family. I feel like I represent the entire Hispanic community. Not many Hispanics nowadays actually end up going to college and I want to be a role model. Coming from a really poor background, my mom was from a ranch, from complete poverty, and she came here many years ago. I am hoping for a better future for all of us and I need to return the favor to her after all the hard work she has done for her 4 children.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Inmigrant Realities DREAMers refer to students who, while not born here, have spent a significant part of their youth in the US, including graduating from high school. In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) enabling Dreamers to apply for employment authorization and have no fear of deportation. They are given a working permit for 2 years, a driver’s license, and a special Social Security number authorizing that they have permission to work in the United States. Due to the lack of a Federal Immigration Reform or the passing of the DREAM act, executive orders like DACA provide a temporary relief to a larger problem.

Bruno Hinojosa

is from Mexico City, Mexico. He moved to the United States when he was 11 and has been in Asheville for 13 years. Bruno is a Dreamer. “I didn’t find out about Obama’s announcement until 11:30 am that day and that was because my girlfriend had called me and said that Obama had passed the new law. DACA didn’t come out of the blue. It came from years and years of fighting for the DREAM Act, along came Deferred Action, which is nothing close to the DREAM Act. Having the work permit is a window to new opportunities as far as jobs. It made me feel like now I could do what I was doing without risking anything. I don’t feel satisfied with the outcome as a Dreamer under DACA because in a way you’re still being discriminated. In NC, my driver’s license says No Lawful Status and limited permit in red. So if you show it to somebody, if you show it to a police officer, you’re still going to be discriminated.

Bruno Hinojosa in a protest. Photo Courtesy of Bruno Hinojosa

Recently, I went to a store and the clerk says, ‘May I see your ID?’. So I pull out my wallet, hand him my driver license, and he begins to register it, ‘Hmm, that is interesting, No Lawful Status, what does that mean?’. ‘It’s for people that qualify for this government program’, I said. ‘Interesting, I haven’t seen anything like it’, was his response. ‘Yeah, they are new driver licenses being offered. Hopefully, you see more of these,”I replied as he handed my driver license back. So I will have to educate people of why my license has written in red NO LAWFUL STATUS every time I show my Identification.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Carolina Pérez Siliceo was born in Mexico City, and immigrated to the United States at three years of age. She was promptly enrolled into a Migrant Farm worker Head Start Program where she was introduced to her dreams of an education. “I never felt that not going to school was a choice, when your family works in the fields like mine did, you realize that your education is more than a dream, it’s your one shot towards a better life.” In 2008 when legislation in North Carolina changed, making it increasingly difficult for undocumented students to attend community colleges and universities, Carolina migrated to Florida where she graduated from Immokalee High School. “I was accepted to many universities but couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition I had to pay for being u n d ocu mented.” C a ro l i n a returned to North Carolina, where she attended Blue Ridge Comunity College (BRCC) and paid about $4000 a semester for two years before transferring to Brevard College. “I had to pay half of the total tuition cost, register for classes, and buy books all on the first day of class, while trying to fit my class schedule around the two jobs I worked to pay for my $800 monthly tuition payments.” At Brevard College, Carolina rceived merit and need based institutional scholarships that covered half of her tuition, while she commuted from her home in Flat Rock. “In time Brevard became aware of my situation and increased my financial aid but the first semesters I paid $1,500 a month, while driving without a license and working full time.” Carolina applied for DACA in November of 2012 and received her documentation in September of 2013. She graduated with her B.A in English from Brevard College and hopes to attend Graduate School.

Carolina Siliceo is giving a speech for theDREAM scholarship she received. Photo by Isabel Catler

“A college education is like a big building with a different entrance for undocumented students. The opportunities are there. Prove to the right person you deserve them. Ask for help. Sometimes you have to wait in a long line, but doors open. Keep knocking.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Inmigrant Realities Deportations and Raids-

Workplace raids, denial of drivers’ licenses, license checkpoints, and deportation programs have had devastating effects on immigrants in Western NC. Programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities (S-Comm) connect county detention centers to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), leading to the deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants. In a 2011 ICE report, 70% of people deported under S-Comm in Buncombe and Henderson County either had no criminal convictions or were convicted of misdemeanor offenses like traffic violations.To document these stories the project “Raising Our Voices: 100 stories project” by Center for Participatory Change, Workers’ Center, El Centro, and COLA gathered these eye witness accounts:

Esteban moved to the United States in 1989 in order to make a better future for himself and his family including three children who were all born in the U.S. His greatest challenge was the language barrier. He worked as a machine operator. In February of 2009, he was pulled over by an officer while picking up his children from school with his daughter Lupe in the car. “When my dad saw the flashing lights, he pulled over to the side of the road like he was supposed to. The officer came up to the car and started to say, ‘How are you?’ but when he got a look at my dad, he stopped in mid-sentence, and it changed to just, ‘Let me see your license!”

According to Congressional reports, in 2013 4.5 million children, who are US citizens, had one or more undocumented parent.

Esteban had a court hearing to face state charges for the traffic violation, was transferred to a detention center in Georgia, and a few weeks later he was deported and permanently barred from seeing his wife and children in the U.S. Esteban’s wife shares, “I don’t know what their agenda is nowadays! To throw us all out of the country? Who would be left to work the fields? It’s always us, the Mexicans. I used to work in a mill. Even when I was pregnant, working at the mill right up to the very last day of my pregnancy. The truth is that it really was hard, starting at 5:00 AM and lasting until 5:00 PM - twelve solid hours on your feet. No wonder almost all of us working at that place were Mexicans.”

When Emilio was 19 he took his mother grocery shopping. While parking, he noticed a car about to back out of a spot; Emilio sped slightly to get past the car before it backed out, only realizing it was a police car when it followed him through the lot with flashing lights. After asking for his driver’s license and registration card, the officer arrested Emilio immediately for not being able to present either. At the jail, the police questioned Emilio and accused him of being affiliated with a gang based on a tattoo he had that said “SLK.” The tattoo had no such meaning. “Back at the jail I heard an officer tell one of his buds that he was worried because ‘it takes us longer to throw these damn wetbacks out of the country than it takes them to cross the river and come right back here.’” At the trial, Emilio was ordered to leave the country and now lives with his grandparents in Mexico.

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


In November 2011, ICE arrested 12 immigrants at the Shogun Buffet and Hibachi Grill in Asheville, NC.

José Antolin Castillo was one of those detained. He is from Santa Rosa de Lima, El Salvador, and has lived in NC for five years. “I crossed the border through Mexico. It was very hard. I walked three days and nights in the desert with seven people. The reason to come to the United States is that one’s country is very poor and one does not have sufficient resources to provide for the family. And I came over here to get ahead, to stand out, and to sustain the family in El Salvador. A cousin got me work here in NC. I have always worked in restaurants. Since I came, I got used to working in restaurants. It is better because I work inside and there is no danger of being outside dealing with hot or cold weather. I worked at Shogun cutting vegetables. I worked twelve hours a day. I had been working eight months at the Shogun restaurant.

According to Hispanic Pew Research, there are 40.4 million immigrants in the US. 11.1 million people are undocumented, including 1.1 million children. 2/3rds of undocumented immigrants have been in the US for more than a decade and 46% are parents with minor children.

The day of the raid was very terrible. We were just coming to work when immigration officials came and grabbed us and took us as prisoners. I was arrested for eight days. It was very hard because it is not an easy thing. There was no chance to get out or anything. There was no way to communicate with anyone. The truth was that when I was a prisoner, I was sure I was going to be deported. Supposedly, I did not have anyone here to look out for me. I had no family. I had nothing. Then, thank God, I had met a friend and through him he called other friends at Nuestro Centro. Then they started to collect money, and they talk to immigration officials to get us out. Through all of that, we were able to get out of jail under bail because Nuestro Centro helped to collect the money. So, here I am in between two rocks, as the saying says, because the attorney I have found could not do anything. They said I needed to leave voluntarily. And then they (Nuestro Centro) sought another attorney, and she is fighting the case and waiting for the response if I can get a visa. My intention is to stay in the USA, and now I'm waiting and I believe I can be peaceful without fear of anything until the answer comes from immigration.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Service Providers Pisgah Legal Services is a non-profit, legal aid agency that focuses on pursuing justice and fighting poverty by providing free civil legal services. The Justice For All Program, which is one of the programs provided by Pisgah, transforms lives by assisting with securing legal immigration status for individuals who are eligible for some form of relief but cannot afford a private attorney. Yolanda Bopp has been working with the immigrant community since the creation of the Justice For All Program in 2001. She recognizes the need for a voice for the undocumented. Prior to coming to work for Pisgah Legal Services, Yolanda witnessed several types of abuse towards this vulnerable community. She explains some of the abuses she saw firsthand, “...victims refusing to report crimes for fear of being deported and denial of government benefits for US children of undocumented parents.” The Justice For All Program works to improve the lives and secure basic needs for the immigrant community.

Yolanda Bopp and immigration attorney, Jane Oakes, assist a client through the “Justice for All” program. This program helps the undocumented and non-English speaking immigrants. Photo by Laura Simmelink

Western Carolina Community Health Services, Inc. (WNCCHS) has provided affordable health care to many Latinos in Buncombe County. Elio González of Camagüey, Cuba, Director of Community Outreach shares, “I have a lot of hats! The beauty of helping people is to support the mission. If you don’t have insurance, you can come here. The clinic has a pharmacy, a dental clinic, and it also has a department for mental health. We also have doctors who are bilingual, nurses who speak Spanish, and a therapist who is Hispanic.”

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


The Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) provides HIV related services to the people in Western North Carolina. Lorena Isabel Flores is from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and shares, “I worked for WNCAP from 2011-2013 and educated migrant workers on STD and HIV prevention. WNCAP also offers onsite rapid HIV testing, and when available rapid HEP C testing. Seasonal migrant workers arrive in WNC around the month of April and stay until around the early fall. Most workers arrive from Florida and Georgia to work on the fields of WNC… Our outreach events are usually conducted in the evenings or weekends when the workers are off from work. The events can take place anywhere from a migrant camp, a work field, or even the individual’s home. Due to their constricted schedules, outreach events are a way to bring healthcare to them…Most of the migrant workers live in small migrant camp communities that are provided by their employers.”

Lorena Flores assists a migrant worker for a health screening. Photo courtesy of Lorena Flores

Althea González is a first generation Cuban American and is the Program Manager for Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), a funders' collaborative of foundations who invest in Latino organizations. HIP has funded over 50 organizations across North Carolina. "It is really important to develop the Latino non-profit sector because those small Latino centers across the state are the ones who provide some really essential services to the community and they are trusted organizations where Latinos feel comfortable to go".

Althea González says, "With the huge, explosive growth of the Latinos in NC, it is really important to help these Latino organizations grow." Photo courtesy of Althea González

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Service Providers Mexican American Angélica Reza Wind is the executive director of Our VOICE, a non-profit organization that works to prevent and support victims of sexual violence. She was born to migrant farm workers who eventually settled in NC. From a young age, she witnessed injustices in the farm worker community that instilled in her a high sense of commitment to the struggle for social justice. She has been involved in several social justice movements that include immigrant rights, women’s reproductive rights, and gender equality. “My passion for individuals impacted by sexual violence stems from my firm belief that all individuals deserve to live a life with dignity and free of violence. I am honored to work at an agency where I see first-hand the resiliency of individuals who have been impacted by sexual violence. It gives me hope for a better future.”

El Centro of Henderson County is a grassroots non-profit organization formed in 1998 to address the growing challenges that parallel the increasing migration of Latino immigrants to western NC. The mission of El Centro is to create a more inclusive community for Latinos by providing unique services, developing grassroots leaders, and working together to access community resources. In 2001, El Centro created the first Latino community center in Henderson County. For the last 13 years, the center has provided space for Latinos to develop a sense of belonging, share problems, and organize around issues that affect the community. The presence of the center and its programs has contributed towards reaching their vision to create a welcoming and just community where everyone is treated with dignity, value and respect.

Carolina McCready (L), volunteer Martha Romero (Center), and Evelyn Alarcon (R) at the Mexican Consulate. Photo courtesy of Sarah Nuñez

For many years El Centro has helped to organize the annual Mexican Consulate visit in various locations across the area. “Without the proper identification, people who have immigrated to this country from Mexico cannot even get a library card, let alone utilities or a bank account,” says Carolina McCready, Co-Director of El Centro of Henderson County. However, in order to process the paperwork needed to obtain/renew passports, Mexican ID cards, or power of attorney, Mexicans living in this area have to go to the Mexican Consulate’s office in Raleigh. This requires taking time off of work and taking children away from school to make the eight hour trip. In addition, most visits require many hours at the Consulate office and an overnight stay. These logistics present an insurmountable challenge for many Mexicans living in this area. To overcome these barriers and help meet vital identification needs in the local Mexican community, El Centro has hosted the Mexican Consulate Mobile services visit to the mountains of NC. For the last 3 years, 2,900 Mexican residents have obtained critical identification documents.

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


The Literacy Council uses volunteers to teach basic English, writing, reading, and math skills. They currently have students from 21 countries that are mostly from Latin America and the Ukraine. María Lomelí-García shares, “I encouraged my mom to learn English because she wants to understand what her friends from work are saying. Victoria Rose is her very own tutor.” María del Carmen Lomelí says, “I want to learn English to be able to communicate in my job and to pass my citizenship exam.” Photo by María Lomelí-García

Norma Brown, is a former Argentinean attorney who currently serves as the Latino Outreach Coordinator for the local non-profit organization, Children First/Community In Schools of Buncombe County. The Latino Outreach Program’s goal is to strengthen Latino families with resources, programs, and support. Some of the services provided by Norma in Spanish include: Motheread, Love and Logic, and Triple P Positive Parenting. She also started M.A.N.O.S (Mentoring and Nurturing Our Students) program in partnership with Warren Wilson College Service Learning. Through M.A.N.O.S, WWC students mentor Latino middle and high school youth towards succeeding academically in order to prepare them for their college/career path. The M.A.N.O.S program also assists students to strengthen their community and civic engagement understanding to become “inspirators”. Norma’s signature phrase is “Let’s discover and support our new generation of inspirators, those who have the capacity to share the journey with others and maintain the inspiration over time.”

Norma Brown is from Argentina and is proud of her work. Photo courtesy of Norma Brown

Contents copyright © 2014 UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education


Profile for Diversity Education

Mi Historia  

Mi Historia