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Stories from Northeast Tennessee’s Hispanic communities

BRENDA BUSTOS Keeping the faith in a family divided by DACA Students bring sounds of tango to the mountains Cuban boxer fights to come to America

Produced by journalism and Spanish students at East Tennessee State University


2 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2018

Ardis Nelson, 1942-2017

Lee Talbert



Ardis Nelson

An educator, scholar and film critic, Nelson inspired students through action and service.

he last time we wrote about Dr. Ardis Nelson (2013), she discussed her 10-day trek across Mexico to meet families of migrant workers living in East Tennessee. In four rural communities, Nelson and East Tennessee State University graduate student Raquel Fratta filmed video “letters” in the homes of Mexican families. The pair then carried these messages to loved ones in Tennessee. The families lacked internet, so watching DVDs of relatives – even if they kept in touch by phone – made them feel closer. It was all part of research on strengthening family ties for migrants, which Nelson, professor of Spanish, and Sharon Loury, professor of nursing, presented at a rural nursing conference in 2011. The project was typical for the adventure-loving Nelson, who died of cancer Nov. 8 at age 75. Nelson led a full life as an educator, scholar, interpreter, translator, author and film critic. Her intrepid spirit led her to ride in the bed of a truck during one leg of her Mexican journey and acquire new dance

steps on another. She tagged along on earlymorning walks to grandma’s house and into a barnyard to visit chickens. Inquisitive, fearless, compassionate and creative, she was a quiet presence behind this publication from 1999 to 2016. Twenty years ago, Nelson joined La Alianza Latina (Latin Alliance), a group formed to address needs of the Tri-Cities Hispanic community. The idea for a bilingual newspaper sprang from that group’s discussions. Nelson, former ETSU journalism professor Jack Mooney and Charles Moore of Appalachian Studies founded “El Nuevo” in 1999. The newspaper and migrant videos gave students a way to learn through action, as did Nelson’s other service-learning projects. She sent students out as Spanish interpreters, teachers, mentors and program leaders. She discussed those projects at conferences, and taught students to do the same. Nelson had a way of making people believe they could improve their corner in the world. Much of that came from watching her. She spent 23 years teaching at ETSU and

later running its Language and Culture Resource Center. At El Nuevo Tennessean, one of the center’s annual projects, she could be counted on to tell us what would make an interesting story, if we asked. Her job was reviewing student translations. Nelson never abandoned this project. In late June, just months before she died, she asked for more copies. She was distributing them around town and shared her list of drop-off locations, so we wouldn’t repeat. “I enjoy seeing things get organized,” she wrote. “I may sound like I still have one foot in the LCRC but I am truly enjoying retirement. My heart is still at the LCRC and with the people and ongoing projects we have been involved in.” Her last story tip was on Cuban boxer Orestes Salazar (page 8) and his work with young fighters in Johnson City. Salazar knew Nelson as a friend and teacher. “In Cuba, we have a philosopher who said many can teach, but not every teacher can be an educator,” Salazar remarked after her death. “Dr. Nelson was an educator.” –Mary Alice Basconi

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CONTENTS Editorial directors Mary Alice Basconi Dr. Felipe Fiuza Spanish editor Carly Hedrick Design editor Mansi Boegemann


Copy editors/designers Calli Anderson, Katie Carpenter, James Dollard, Sydney Graham, Zoe Hill, Hannah Johnson, Hailey Massie, Mykala Reynolds, Courtney Spencer, Jonathan Sutherland, Braedyn Tutton, Haley Woody Translators Samantha Bosse, Rosanna Camacho, Austin Cedillo, Roxanne Gonzalez, Carly Hendrick, Robert Lay, Rebekka Merrifield, Francisco Manuel Benedicto Semitiel, Lauren Whitney



On the web





Cover design Damien Johnson











On the cover Brenda Bustos is raising her newborn son, Enrique, alone while her Mexican husband is prohibited from returning to the United States. Photo by Mansi Boegemann El Nuevo Tennessean is produced by students in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Media and Communication, in partnership with The ETSU Language and Culture Resource Center and students in the Minor of Applied Spanish and Community Outreach. For copies or questions, call (423) 439-8342, email, or visit the LCRC at 219 Campus Center Building, ETSU, Johnson City, TN, 37614.

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Couple separated by 2,000 miles and DACA International students build relationships at ETSU Cuban boxer fights to come to America LCRC closes gap between cultures

Honduran family gains U.S. citizenship

Anabel Andrade looks back on years of cooking Family runs fitness center in Limestone, Tennessee


ETSU students bond over a love for music


Soccer community founded in diversity


Professor works to identify household contaminants

As we prepare for publication, immigration issues stay in the news. In April 2018, a government raid on a meat-packing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee, led to detainment of 97 undocumented workers and deportation proceedings against some of them. Our stories, which were created before that event, offer a closer look at the diverse Latino community of Northeast Tennessee.

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GOING THE DISTANCE Couple separated by 2,000 miles and DACA



artin Ceron has met his son Enrique once. He has not set foot in the U.S. in two years. His wife, Brenda Bustos, is 2,000 miles away in Erwin, Tennessee, while he is in Mexico City. The family is being torn apart as a result of U.S. legislation on illegal immigration. “My parents are here, but he is my family,” said Bustos. “My family is down there, and I know he needs my support.” In 2012, former President Barack Obama approved an administrative program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals for the benefit of children who came to the U.S. illegally under the age of 16. Under the program, these immigrants could receive Social Security numbers and other forms of identification, enabling them to acquire jobs and attend universities. “There was definitely excitement,” said Bustos, 25. “We didn’t know what we would need, but we were going to try to find out everything possible to get that legal status.” Ceron, also 25, moved to the U.S. when he was 5 and received DACA protection in 2013. He secured a job as a machine technician at a factory in Morristown, Tennessee, and married Brenda. After two years, he applied to become a permanent legal resident so that he and Bustos, an American citizen, could travel. “I guess this is what we get when we do it the right way,” said Bustos. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Ceron to become a legal resident, and also granted him an interview in Juarez, Mexico, to finalize his status. “What we didn’t know was that we had to have an I-160 form saying why it would be hard for me to be separated from my husband,” said Bustos. When Ceron arrived in Juarez for his interview, he was denied and received a 10year restriction from entering the U.S. again, because he was missing his I-160 form. His

Bustos hopes to bring her husband back into the country with the help of a lawyer.


Enrique is being raised without his father due to immigration difficulties.

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 5 DACA rights were also stripped because he left the country. Now Ceron is a customer service representative in Mexico City, making $300 a month. Bustos, who visited him over Christmas in 2016, is now back to work at the Johnson City Community Health Center, raising her baby in her parents’ home in Erwin. Bustos and Enrique visited Ceron in Mexico City for the first time in January. “When I went to my OBGYN, they were trying to get social workers on me to make sure I wasn’t going to do something crazy,” said Bustos. “I haven’t gotten to the point where I want to hurt myself, but I’ve been really depressed. I started gaining a lot of weight, and then I got to the point when I realized I couldn’t be doing this anymore.” Bustos, with the help of a lawyer, has submitted a hardship waiver to the government in an attempt to bring her husband home. They anticipate that the wait could be anywhere from three to 12 months before the paperwork is processed. “These will help him show that I really need him here, so I won’t depend on the government to be taking care of me,” said Bustos. “I need my head of household to take care of me.” Within the first year of his absence, Bustos was paying her own bills as well as his. She filed for bankruptcy, lost her home and moved in with her parents. Visiting Mexico is expensive, so she has only traveled there twice. This, combined with the presence of a baby, makes it difficult to pursue the case. “There will always be a day when we will be back together as a family; that’s pretty much what keeps me going,” said Bustos. Ceron plans on returning to the U.S. and going back to school. Once an honors student in high school, he received scholarships to go to college, but was unable to use them because he entered the country without permission. His opportunities through DACA are gone, but with a green card obtained through extensive paperwork, he hopes to pursue that dream once again. “If that’s what your goal is, go for it,” said Bustos. “No one can stop you from going to school.” Students like Rubi Estrada, 18, have taken that to heart. Estrada and her family entered the country illegally and moved to

Avery County, North Carolina, when she was 7 years old. Now a freshman at East Tennessee State University, Estrada is studying public health so she may pursue a career as a physical therapist. Estrada, like Ceron, was also an honors student in high school. She is a Roan Scholar, a recipient of a prestigious regional scholarship that offers her a full ride to ETSU. DACA provided her the Social Security number and paperwork needed to receive this scholarship and attend college. “With DACA being here, you have no excuse not to go to college,” said Estrada. “It’s pretty meaningful, and I know it’s a relief to my parents. They work so hard every day, and it just makes it worthwhile. That pressure is a privilege.” In early September, DACA and its 800,000 recipients were placed in jeopardy. The attorney general and governor of Idaho wrote to President Trump, threatening to sue if the program implemented under the Obama administration was not repealed. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA recipients can renew their grant of deferred action, but new applications are no longer being accepted. Estrada is concerned for her fellow DACA recipients more so than for herself. “I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to show their support when all you want is to get an education and contribute to the United States,” said Estrada. “We’re talking about good people.” According to a telephone survey by CBS News conducted in January, 87 percent of the 1,225 people surveyed support the DACA program. Among them is ETSU sophomore Noah Nordstrom, 19, who led a campus rally supporting DACA recipients. He is dating someone who benefits from the program. “I’m somebody who really cares about him and I’m committed to sticking with him,” said Nordstrom. “So because you don’t want him here, do you not want me here either? Do you want me to go become a Mexican citizen or permanent resident because of your opposition to [illegal immigration]?” Those who disagree say that illegal immigration is pushing U.S. citizens out of the job market. There is also concern that DACA can be an avenue to allow drug cartels into the U.S.

DACA recipients still have an unknown future. Congress has continued to delay the termination of the program until a new solution is put in place. President Trump has agreed to support the DACA program into law in exchange for Congress’ support for increased border security. While no formal resolution has been reached, some moderate Republicans in the House are pushing for a discharge petition to bring the issue to a vote. While DACA is currently an administrative program, a legislative proposal is in the works that would guarantee the provisions offered under DACA and give qualifying minors a path to legal residency. Variations of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, have been circulating on Capitol Hill for over 16 years, but have yet to be approved. Nordstrom believes the DREAM Act is starting to gain bipartisan support. “No matter where you are ideologically, you’re not going to have people saying, ‘Hey, get out of our country,’” said Nordstrom. “There might be a small group of people that just don’t have any capacity for empathy, but I don’t think that’s a big segment of the population. I hope I’m right.”

Estrada is a Roan Scholar studying to become a physcial therapist. She feels privileged to have the opportunity to attend ETSU.


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Home Away from Home International Buccaneer Buddies brings students together





any universities and colleges in the United States accept students from around the globe, and East Tennessee State University is one of them. Students travel for hours to ETSU and for Maria Avila, it was no different. Avila arrived as a freshman in spring 2013. She traveled from Cuernavaca, Mexico, the capital city in the state of Morelos. When she went home after a semester in the United States, she wasn’t sure she wanted to return. She missed her family and home. “It was a pretty hard my first semester,” Avila said. “Right before coming back, I cried to my mom and she cried, and she told me she wasn’t sure about sending me over there, and if she was doing right by me to expand my horizons. And I told her it’s going to be okay. That next semester, I

Maria Avila, a communication studies graduate student, is a leader for the International Buccaneer Buddy program.

became a part of IBB.” International Buccaneer Buddies is an organization that connects current ETSU undergraduate and graduate students with exchange students to guide them around Johnson City, Tennessee. Around seven years ago, Brent Morrow, now a retired counseling professor, began the program. “I saw a need to connect international students better with American students and with each other,” Morrow said. “Just recently, we’ve been brought under the umbrella of the Multicultural Center. We have an office now, so we can do more programming for the international students.” The buddy program pairs an international student with an ETSU student to help them on campus and create a friendship. There

is a host program related to IBB called the International Friendship Program that Morrow started in 2006. “With the host program, we recruit families who either work at the university or in the community,” Morrow said. “When the student arrives, sometimes after a 24-hour plane ride, the family picks them up, houses them for a couple of nights, takes them shopping and helps them move in.” In 2016, 5 percent of 13,410 students at ETSU came from 74 different countries, according to ETSU’s Enrollment Fact Book. That was 676 international students. For some of those students, IBB helped them get to know other students. After Avila joined IBB, she found other students in the same situation of leaving home and seeking a community.

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 7 received salt and pepper shakers in the shapes of hens. “She packed them before coming because she knew she was going to have a buddy,” Avila said. The opportunity at IBB doesn’t end when the exchange period finishes. “Students, when they go back home, are starting up their own IBB in their universities,” Morrow said. “IBB makes an impact on them and they want to share it.” Last fall, Avila and a few other IBB leaders planned to take their buddies to a Vietnamese restaurant. What started as a small group turned into 29 people. Avila loved it. “I ordered a dish with sections of food,” she said. “The meat was in one spot, the veggies in another and I didn’t know how to eat it. My buddy showed me how to put the food together into rice paper. If she had not helped me, I would have eaten each part separately. IBB gave me these opportunities.” Although Avila cried when she had to come back to ETSU, the tears were temporary when she found IBB. “I’ve met so many people from around the world, some of my best friends,” Avila said. “It enriches your soul. It really is an amazing experience.”


which it sends students abroad in exchange for accepting international students. ETSU’s partner countries include England, China, Russia, Norway, Japan and Germany. Each country has at least one institution that takes part. “International exchange students have the option of attending ETSU for one or two semesters as non-degree seeking students; however, there is also the option of attending ETSU as degreeseeking students,” said Chasity Drew, an international student advisor. “The degreeseeking students are normally here for the traditional four years.” Last semester, Avila’s buddy was from Vietnam, one of the countries not in the exchange program. Ngoc Tran is a business management major at Ho Chi Minh City International University. She found ETSU through the International Student Exchange Program. She is only attending for a semester through ISEP. She joined IBB before attending. “IBB has helped a lot,” Tran said. “When I came here, I already made friends with international students and American students. They have all been really nice. They are willing to help you and it is really kind.” Before Tran arrived, she picked out gifts for Avila and her host family, wanting to thank them for welcoming her. Avila


“You don’t have a car, you don’t know anyone. You miss home, but in IBB, everyone is so welcoming and so open to learn about different cultures,” Avila said. Avila remained a member of IBB until she graduated. Now a graduate student, Avila is a leader in IBB. Each semester she partners with an international student “buddy” to guide around the campus and city. She shows her buddy campus buildings, takes her to restaurants and even goes to Starbucks. According to the Institute of International Education, 1 million international students attended schools in the United States in the 2015-16 school year. That is an 85 percent increase from the 564,766 students in 200506. According to the institute, the top five countries that sent students to the United States in 2015-16 were China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada. Together, they sent 643,732 students that year. Mexico was 10th with 16,733 students. ETSU had 16 students from Mexico that year. In the 2005-2006 school year, Mexico ranked seventh with 13,931 students. The top five countries were India, China, South Korea, Japan and Canada, with a total 265,021 students. Saudi Arabia didn’t make the top 20. At ETSU, seven students from Mexico attended. ETSU has a bilateral exchange program, in

Brent Morrow started the Buccaneer Buddy program seven years ago.

Maria Avila learned from Ngoc Tran how to eat a Vietnamese dish. PAGE DESIGN // SYDNEY GRAHAM

8 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2018


Boxer fights to come to America



Salazar watches his students train, walking around and helping them by giving pointers when necessary.

ut of the millions of immigrants who fight to come to the in his mind, Salazar was a professional boxer. U.S. every year, retired boxer Ignacio Orestes Salazar “I felt professional when I left boxing, because I knew everything Batista finally won the match. that could happen with my opponent,” said Salazar. “I knew what It began many years ago in his hometown of Holguin, Cuba. my opponent [thought] even, and that is like a professional.” Salazar’s cousin was going to the gym to spar, and Salazar, then 15, This determination to succeed would be what helped Salazar went along in case he needed to defend his cousin. He was afraid make it to America. the more experienced boxer would try to do more than just box. As a boxer in Cuba, Salazar would take years off periodically, then At the gym, Salazar was asked if he would like to put on gloves to return to the ring. During the years in between boxing, Salazar spar. He had never seen boxing before, but he would work at a sweets factory, waiting for his geared up for a loss that would lead to a career time to return. This back-and-forth between he never imagined. boxing and factory work would continue until he Salazar lost to the boxer not once, but three was 25. times, because he kept coming back. His longest break was four years, but when “He beat me a lot my first time,” said Salazar. he returned to the ring he became the national “Then I [came] back for the second time, champion. because I was thinking revenge, and he beat me Cuban boxers are sometimes given the again.” opportunity to travel, and Salazar wanted nothing Salazar went back a third time, and he lost more than to come to America. However, he was again. From here he started training, but the never given the chance to travel, because his boxer had already moved on in his career. government knew he would not return. Eventually they would meet again. In Cuba, Salazar said, the government knew —ORESTES SALAZAR By the time the boxer returned, Salazar had everything. Neighborhoods would have special already won seven fights. After losing many people watching and listening to everything that times to him, Salazar would no longer feel anger or the need for was said and done. Salazar had to be careful of what he did. revenge, but something else entirely. “They know everything,” said Salazar. “If you are not in agreement “[I] sparred with him, and I didn’t want to beat him so much, with the government for something, they immediately go to the because it was so easy at the time for me,” said Salazar. police.” Finally, Salazar had his revenge. Growing up in Cuba, Salazar lived in a family of seven, but now He was born in Cuba on July 31, 1942, into a culture where boxers there are only three siblings: his brother, his sister and himself. He are trained as professionals. has two biological sons and a woman he thinks of as a daughter. Salazar was not considered a professional, but he was a very His niece and his brother would eventually make the transition talented amateur boxer. After fighting 61 matches and winning 56, into the U.S. easier for him.


2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 9

Orestes Salazar is actively hands-on when training his students.

His brother Pedro Orlando, a minister, traveled to Spain for work and then to America. After living in the U.S. for many years, he petitioned for Orestes Salazar to join him in the U.S. On July 28, 2011, having been retired several years, Salazar was finally able to come to the states. Salazar’s brother rents apartments in the Johnson City, Tennessee, area, and this is how Orestes came to live there. “I came here with the main purpose to work and help my family, especially my sons,” said Salazar. “I know the conditions there; they live very poor.” In his journey to America, several Cubans asked him why he was leaving after already retiring. “My retirement is not enough for eating; not enough for dressing myself [or] to help anybody,” Salazar said. After living in Johnson City for a few months, Salazar’s niece was able to get him volunteer work at Olson’s Martial Arts Academy and the Athletic Club. After the Athletic Club in Johnson City closed, Salazar moved to Bang Bang Boxing and Fitness Gym. There, Salazar works alongside Scott Vance, the head coach. The two had previously worked together at the Athletic Club. Vance, who has worked with Salazar for many years, said he really enjoys him. He has learned so much from him, and finds it a pleasure to learn from a man so knowledgeable about boxing. “When he came in and started working, it was a little awkward, because he taught things a little different than I did,” said Vance. “Now I use things that he uses for boxers.” At Bang Bang Boxing and Fitness Gym, Salazar trains boxers of all ages. He can see when his trainees have it, or when they just aren’t getting it. Salazar teaches them how to become a boxer by using dance to help them understand how the body works. One of Salazar’s students, Julian Alvarez, says that he enjoys learning from him, and the respect he has for his coach makes learning easier. “It’s just honestly kind of inspirational, because seeing what he’s done and what he’s been through, he knows how I feel,” said Alvarez. “When he’s telling me to work harder and stuff, it is easier to do what he says, because he’s been there.”

Salazar watches some students box, taking up the hand positions and motions himself.


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CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY LCRC closes gap between Latino and Appalachian culture



LCRC Director Felipe Fiuza attended college to become a professor but found his passion interpreting for Johnson City’s Hispanic community.



he Language and Culture Resource Center at ETSU is not just for the benefit of college students. People who do not speak English in the Tri-Cities use it as a tool to close their language gap with the English-speaking community. The LCRC organizes and promotes programs and events throughout the course of the year to fulfill its mission. Director Felipe Fiuza, who was appointed in 2017, works with approximately 20 student workers to meet the needs of the community. “We’re always trying to connect English-speaking students with other cultures and languages in order to expand their horizons,” said Fiuza. Fiuza hails from Brazil but moved to the U.S. for college. He received his doctorate in Spanish literature from Purdue University in May 2017 before coming to ETSU. In addition to his duties as director of the LCRC, Fiuza is also a Spanish professor. The LCRC’s most time-consuming program is Language Link, which consists of interpretation and translation. According to the Affordable Care Act, all health clinics are required to provide interpretations to patients in need. These clinics can turn to the LCRC to interpret at medical appointments and help patients. Most requests come from Spanish-speaking persons, but the LCRC interprets for Portuguese and

Hispanic Student Day equips high school students with the knowledge they need to apply to and attend a university.


2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 11

ETSU hosts about 150-200 high school students of Hispanic heritage each year at Hispanic Student Day.

Arabic-speakers as well. “You can see the reaction of the patient in that moment,” said Fiuza. “You can see the relief that they can understand what is going on with their health. They can feel free to ask questions and get them answered.” Fiuza said it is common for Spanishspeaking patients to bring their children along to translate for them, but sometimes this is not appropriate or possible. The LCRC offers a way around this issue. All of the LCRC’s interpreters are trained to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, meaning that appointments interpreted by students remain confidential. Written translations are also conducted by the LCRC, which Fiuza says is a little like teaching. “When you are a professor, it takes some time to see the effects of what you do,” he said. “You don’t get to experience that fulfillment, the complete result of what you do. As an interpreter you do experience the results of your work.” The center receives anywhere from two to 12 interpretation requests each week, which requires more time than anything else. The money made through Language Link directly funds the other programs that the LCRC is responsible for. One such program is the Expanding College Access to English Language Learners Mentor Program, known as XCELL. XCELL’s top priority is to show Hispanic high school students that they do have the opportunity to attend a university. Student workers from the LCRC travel to surrounding high schools and speak

with students of Hispanic heritage about options for achieving higher education. This advice applies to both documented and undocumented students. Regardless of a student’s immigration status, some institutions offer merit-based and needbased scholarships or grants. The LCRC also hosts Hispanic Student


Day every fall on ETSU’s campus for approximately 150-200 people. This day shows what college life may be like for a Hispanic student. Denise Chavez Reyes, an ETSU student from Ecuador, began working for the LCRC as events coordinator in 2016 and helps organize Hispanic Student Day. “We do campus tours,” said Chavez. “We do a faculty panel with the potential careers the students might be interested in doing.” Northeast State Community College, Milligan College and Maryville College have been invited to attend the next event on Oct. 24. It does not matter where students go to college. According to Fiuza, what matters is that Hispanic high school students are aware of the opportunities. Another community event is the Corazon Latino Festival, held every spring in downtown Johnson City, Tennessee. Chavez, who was also responsible for coordinating the event, says that the

festival is “a way to bridge the Hispanic and Appalachian communities.” The festival consists of live music, authentic Latin cuisine and native dance lessons. Another attraction in the past has been the “running of the bulls,” where a roller derby team from Johnson City wears red and chases the runners through downtown. ETSU students conduct research on countries in Latin America and decorate booths with information about them. Some of these students are natives of the country they are representing, while others are simply interested in the culture of the country. This portion of the festival is called “Passport to the Americas.” The next Corazon Latino Festival is scheduled for April 12, 2019. The LCRC is also active on ETSU’s campus. Fiuza is the faculty advisor of the Hispanic American Student Community Alliance for Latino students. The LCRC also hosts movie nights, game nights and conversation tables for students wanting to practice speaking Spanish and Portuguese. “Installing a movie night series is one of my favorite parts, in which we showcase movies from different cultures and parts of the world and find a guest speaker to explain the context,” said Chavez. Fiuza hopes to expand the reach of the LCRC to new students and new cultures. While most of the LCRC’s work is based on serving the Hispanic community, Fiuza wants to incorporate more resources for international students. Fiuza is working on a grant from a private institution that would allow him to hire international students on work-study. He also wants to provide students with interpretation training in addition to the HIPAA training they already receive so they are better equipped to help patients. In the coming school year, Fiuza wants to partner with the Mexican Consulate to provide Mexican immigrants with options if they ever were to relocate back home. “The Mexican Consulate offers to teach people how to read in Spanish and receive a traditional Mexican K-12 education so that immigrants–if they ever want to go back to Mexico–they will have that education,” he said.


12 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2018

New Country,

New Life

Erlan Martinez and Mima Castro moved with their two sons in the hopes of living the American dream STORY AND PHOTOS BY HAILEY MASSIE


rlan Aristides Martinez and his wife Mima Fabiola Castro made some crucial decisions in their lifetimes, decisions that have forever changed not only their lives, but those of their sons. Martinez and Castro now live in Bristol, Tennessee, thousands of miles from their place of birth: Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. The couple met through mutual friends while attending college. When Martinez was only 18, and Castro 19, the couple decided to marry in 1992. Shortly after, their first son, Erlan Eduardo, was born. “This was one of the biggest decisions in our life, to move away from our family,” said Castro. Most of their family live in Tegucigalpa, so deciding to move hours away was difficult for the couple. “We didn’t have cousins, we didn’t have aunts or uncles,” said Castro. “It was just us.” In 1998 the couple’s second son, Andre Luis, was born in San Pedro Sula. 2000 was a big year for Martinez and Castro. Martinez graduated with a master’s degree and Castro finished her bachelor’s degree in business administration. As their sons grew over the years a recurring question that came to Martinez’s and Castro’s minds was “How can we give our sons a better future?” Honduras has been facing many challenges with its economy since the 2008-2009 global economic crisis. Statistics show in 2016 more than 66 percent of the population was living in poverty. Another concern was the high crime rate. In recent years the number of homicides has declined, but Honduras still has one of the highest rates in the world, 59 murders per 100,000 people in 2016, according to the World Bank. A chain of events would slowly unfold for the Martinez-Castro family in the following years that would bring them to East Tennessee. Martinez received a link through email with a message line that said, “Do you want a green card?” Martinez applied and paid $200 to have the documents processed, but his wife was skeptical.

The Martinez-Castro family left Honduras in 2011 to move to North Carolina.

“I was excited about it, and when I told her she was upset with me saying ‘It’s a scam! You’re giving away money we don’t have,’” said Martinez. Castro, who was eager to move to the U.S. to give her sons better opportunities, still had her doubts about this email. When Martinez didn’t receive a response he began to believe that his wife was right, but there was nothing he could do to get his money back. The couple let the situation leave their minds. Two years later Castro received a call from the Kentucky Consular Center informing her that the family qualified for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of State, grants up to 55,000 permanent residency visas a year for people coming from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. Participants are chosen at random, which has given this program the popular nickname of “The Green Card Lottery.” After receiving this news, Castro was told that if her family wanted to continue with this process they would have to pay $600. Still skeptical, Castro and Martinez requested all of the forms they needed but waited to pay the $600 fee. In October 2010, all the paperwork was sent in. In February 2011, the family received word that they would have an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras two months later. “That was the moment that we realized maybe we can make our dream come true,” said Martinez. After going through this tedious and time-consuming process, the Martinez-Castro family was granted permanent residency visas. The U.S. government gave the family six months to make a final decision. Not wanting to enter the U.S. without a secure job, Martinez asked to be transferred from his job at a textiles plant in Honduras to the company’s plant in Maiden, North Carolina. Martinez had been sent to train employees at this specific plant before when he worked for the company in Honduras. He was approved to transfer to the North Carolina plant. After five months of waiting and considering their options, the family decided to accept this invitation to live in the U.S., more than

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 13 2,000 miles away from their home in San Pedro Sula. life,” said Andre. “Just being here gives you a new beginning. You Once the family arrived there were still many challenges. find out more about yourself…the move here shaped me into who I “We came blind,” said Castro. “Once we received our permanent am today. It all worked out.” residency our tourist visas were canceled. We didn’t have the Erlan began attending Appalachian State University in Boone, opportunity to come here and see where or how we were going to North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in live…When we came we didn’t even have a place or an address to chemistry. have all of our things sent to. So we used Erlan’s company’s address Castro, who worked in the bank industry in Honduras, started to have the 10 boxes we brought sent to.” working as a part-time bilingual teller in North Martinez’s company paid for the family to live Carolina. As Castro’s English improved with time she in a hotel for a week while they looked for a place would work her way up in the banking business. “THAT WAS THE to live. Quickly Martinez and Castro found an After a few years of living in North Carolina, apartment near where their son Erlan would be Martinez heard rumors that his plant might close MOMENT THAT WE down and transfer operations to Honduras. Not attending college, but difficulties still ensued. After purchasing beds for their new apartment, REALIZED MAYBE wanting to become unemployed, he searched for a the family realized that they would not be new job and found a textiles company that was hiring WE CAN MAKE OUR in Bristol, Tennessee. delivered on the same day. Trying to decide if they should extend their stay at the hotel or move Now the couple resides in Bristol with Andre, who DREAM COME TRUE.” just into their new place and sleep on the floor, the started attending Northeast State Community – ERLAN MARTINEZ family chose to save money and move in. College. Not only did they spend their first night at their Erlan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. apartment on the floor, they also went without Castro now works as a bilingual home mortgage electricity for that night. Castro said they bought consultant for a nationwide bank, and recently an ice cooler to store food. accepted a position as a personal banker II. Next, the family had to buy a car. After selling the family’s two In her new job location, Castro has been adding more and more cars in Honduras, Martinez and Castro had enough money to clients to her list, especially those who speak Spanish. purchase one vehicle in the U.S. “In our business, it’s crucial to have a bilingual team member to At this time Martinez and Castro had no credit history, so they serve the Hispanic community,” said Lindsey Whitworth, Castro’s had to pay for their car in cash. Once the family went to drive the current manager. “She is even more valuable because she is car off the lot they were told they needed car insurance, which is not Hispanic herself and speaks the language. She can be their trusted mandatory in Honduras. consultant with the home-buying process.” The couple made a call to an insurance company, but because they The last year has been an eventful one for the Martinez-Castro had no experience driving in the U.S. they had to pay $2,000 to family: On August 11, 2017, everyone became an American citizen. receive car insurance for six months. Then, in January, Erlan married his long-time girlfriend, Dilia, in The family was not only facing financial issues, but living far from Honduras. Dilia is now waiting for permission to enter the U.S. to their home country also took a toll. join her husband. “I was excited [to move],” said Erlan, the couple’s oldest son. “It’s a process,” Mima said. “However, after thinking about everything it was going to take into account, it became like a nightmare,” he said. “I lived 19 years in a country where I had my girlfriend [now his wife], childhood friends and relatives a few minutes or hours away from me. Once it hit me that I wouldn’t be with them on a daily basis, I was frightened about going into the unknown.” Another way the move proved problematic was how often the Martinez-Castro family was able to visit their relatives. “I am seeing my mother every three years at the most,” said Castro. “[She] is 84, so it’s very hard for me to see her. It’s like every time I say ‘goodbye’ to her I’m praying because I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see her again.” After getting settled, the Martinez-Castro family had exhausted their finances and tested their relationships, but over time they would come to make North Carolina their home. “The beginning was the hardest because you are leaving Erlan and Mima’s eldest son, Erlan, married Dilia in Honduras in January. everything behind, your friends, your family, basically your whole PAGE DESIGN // HAILEY MASSIE

14 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2017



Anabel Andrade is a center aide at the Telamon Corp. Head Start program, where she interprets for Spanish-speaking families.

Anabel Andrade serves community in the kitchen and the classroom


he day of a farm worker starts at the crack of dawn and stretches into evening. That calls for hearty meals to keep workers energized, and earlier mornings for the cooks. Until last year, Anabel Andrade began her days at 4 a.m. from April to October to prepare authentic Mexican meals to the migrant workers at Scott’s Farm and Jones and Church Farm in Unicoi County, Tennessee. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, she was the fuel for a worker’s day of strenuous labor. As a child on Scott’s Farm in the 1980s, Andrade began building her cooking skills by helping her mother. “I first got involved helping out in the kitchen when I was little, probably about 12 years old,” Andrade said. “All the adults on the farm would go to work, while the older kids took care of the younger kids.” In the ’80s and ’90s, farms such as Scott’s would employ families to work in the fields,

STORY AND PHOTOS BY GABE PEREZ as opposed to the single, male farm workers hired today. Responsibilities were shared between men and women. Children not only looked after one another in the living spaces – they prepared for the adults coming home. “My mother started leaving me chores to do by the time she got home,” Andrade said. “Once I got my chores done, I would have tasks as simple as boiling beans and peeling potatoes, so she wouldn’t have to start cooking from nothing.” As time went on, Andrade’s maternal grandfather grew ill. Her mother, Mona, relied on Andrade to take the reins in the kitchen as she tended to her father. “I was working [in the fields] and taking care of my younger siblings all at the same time,” Andrade said. “We could have told the workers that we could not cook for them because of the family situation, but we knew how important our commitment to them was.”

This commitment was to Mexican migrant farm workers in the H-2A work visa program, which allows U.S. employers who meet specific requirements to bring in foreign nationals for agricultural jobs under seasonal, nonimmigrant visas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, in 2016 the government issued around 10 million nonimmigrant visas, compared to 600,000 immigrant visas. Andrade described the program as positive overall, benefitting both workers and farms. “The worker’s fare to get here gets paid,” Andrade said. “They come and have a secure job for the six months they are here and the farms have dedicated workers. If the workers leave their contract, they can’t come back next year, and if they get in trouble with the law, their contract is automatically terminated.” Workers also help the local economy by spending their wages.

2017 | El Nuevo Tennessean 15 “A lot of businesses in the area see the boost when the workers are here for the season,” Andrade said. “It’s probably about 200 workers all together that arrive.” In 2016, Andrade opened her family-run restaurant, La Meza, near both farms as well as her home. There she upgraded her operation of preparing food for the workers, as well as blessing the locals with her cooking. La Meza held a wellestablished reputation for authentic Mexican cuisine, all made from scratch. Her main help in the kitchen came from her sister Alma Andrade and her son Daniel Meza. Mona’s philosophy carried over as well. “My mother always said that no matter what time it was, or if the kitchen was closed, if someone was hungry, she was going to feed them,” Alma Andrade said. “They worked hard and were hungry. No matter what it took, she was going to give them food, even if they did not have the money to pay for it. That has been our motto: ‘If you are hungry, we’re going to feed you.’” Meza explained how relationships between Andrade and her family flourished in the kitchen. “I’m very close to my mom,” he said. “I [told] her everything while we’re at the restaurant, and she’s helped me through many things that I asked advice on. We always have a determined mindset when it

Andrade and her family owned La Meza for two years.

comes to cooking, but we also love to have fun when we can.” While experience and the advice from a loving mother, plus help from other family members, can prepare someone for the job at hand, nothing can prepare a family for tragedy. On July 9, 2017, Andrade’s world was shaken when her 19-year-old son Alan Meza, a server in the restaurant, died in a car accident. The devastating loss caused the family to close La Meza, as it was one obligation too many during the grieving process. “Bonding with her has really helped both of us after the accident,” Meza said. “Anyone that knows my mom can tell how important our family time is to get.” To Andrade, serving the workers was a saving grace. “At first I kept in mind that I was the only person feeding them,” Andrade said at the time. “As time went on with my grieving, I realized that the farm workers and providing for them has kept me going. The workers don’t know that I’m not doing them a favor; they are doing me a favor. They have saved my sanity.” Andrade cooked for the workers for the remainder of the season. Then in November, Clarence’s Drive-In purchased the building after a fire at its former location. Her kitchen gone, Andrade no longer cooks for a living, but helps the community as a center aide at the Telamon Corp., a childhood and family center in Unicoi, where she spent 20 years before opening the restaurant. She translates for Spanishspeaking families who use Telamon’s services, and watches the children when teachers are not in the room. Working has been a familiar safety net during this time in her life. “Being with the children has helped me

Working at Telamon Corp. has helped Andrade recover emotionally after her son’s death.

tremendously,” said Andrade. “I cannot thank God enough that there was a position open for me to come back to that would help me so much.” Andrade and her family can spend muchneeded personal time at home.


“I don’t know if my healing would become complete if I were still at the restaurant because it gets so busy. I wouldn’t take the time necessary for myself to grieve and I wouldn’t be able to be there for my children to deal with the loss of their brother,” she said. “It’s funny. I’ve found myself back where it all started with my family. It feels like I’m back to my roots. We as a family have always been close, but this has brought us even closer. The accident has changed us, but has changed us in a good way... “Maybe one day there will be another La Meza, but for now I’m where I need to be.”


16 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2018

CROSSFIT GLORIFIED Boxes, barbells, obstacle courses, oh my!

How a family in East Tennessee is changing the lives of others through fitness



imestone, Tennessee, is a small farming community. Most of its businesses are auto repair shops, gas stations and restaurants. CrossFit Glorified, owned by the Florez family, is the only fitness facility. CrossFit is not just a business to Gustavo “Gus” Florez and his family. It’s a passion. Gus and his wife Lourdes owned and operated sports facilities and a premier competitive soccer program in Connecticut before deciding to move to Limestone to be with family. After moving they decided to start their own CrossFit affiliation. Their daughter Camila and nephew Samuel train with them. Gus’ mother, Dennyr Florez, also does CrossFit training. “We love people,” said Lourdes. “Our desire is to help them regardless of age or ability to reach their goals. CrossFit is a vehicle that God has used to impact my family and friends.” She added that it’s taught her to set her own limitations and help her to embrace what she loves: community. Their desire to help others is the main reason Gus and Lourdes started their own CrossFit business, Fit 4 Life Farm. “I had three knee surgeries and CrossFit really helped me get back into being able to play sports, primarily soccer,” said Gus. “So, I decided that it works, and I wanted to help others get in shape and work through their injuries or whatever situations they’ve got.” Fit 4 Life Farm is a 20-acre converted hay farm in Limestone. The family’s home is on the hill above the barn. A dirt track and obstacle course are behind the barn and, a playground and soccer field are across from it. The barn was remodeled and now has

concrete and rubber floors, bathrooms and showers. An obstacle course, volleyball field, soccer field and off-road bike course are on the property. Each CrossFit affiliation has a name. The Florez family chose CrossFit Glorified. “The names we wanted weren’t available, and this one happened to be one that fit what our faith is and what we believe from a spiritual perspective,” said Gus. Fit 4 Life represents “being fit for everyday life,” a concept that the Florez family lives by. They each participate in CrossFit workouts daily. CrossFit is a fitness regimen and business developed and branded by Greg Glassman and his ex-wife Lauren Jenai in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. It is a combination of physical exercise philosophy and a competitive fitness sport. The workouts incorporate elements from Gus Florez opened the first and only fitness facility in seven types of fitness training regimens: Limestone, Tennessee.

S.W.E.A.T. is an all-woman workout group that meets regularly at CrossFit Glorified.

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 17 According to the CrossFit website, there are over 13,000 affiliates worldwide. “The methodology of CrossFit is the same for all the affiliates,” said Gus. “If you’ve got your certifications, your methodology is not going to change. What changes is the space itself and how you design it and the atmosphere that you create, from the music, to the way the box flows and the people that go to the box.” The barn, like all fitness buildings in CrossFit, is known as “the box.” It’s the building where many of the workouts take place. The walls of the barn are covered from floor to ceiling with objects used for training. Some of the items used are kettlebells, jump ropes, hula-hoops, barbells, bands, pull-up rigs, treadmills and rings. Gus and his three certified coaches start athletes out on polyvinyl chloride pipes, to judge their technique and to measure their level of fitness. Then, they determine what workouts would be best for them. From there they help that person work their way up to higher levels of fitness. CrossFit has a competitive element. Every summer athletes compete against one another at Aromas, California, in an event

Fit 4 Life Farm specializes in programs for men, women and children alike. No one is left out when it comes to fitness.

called the CrossFit Games. The Florez family also hosts competitions at the farm. The most recent event was the Turkey Throwdown on Nov. 18, which brought 80 teams of two competitors. “It’s called a throwdown because before CrossFit became so big, one or two boxes would get together and compete for bragging rights as the fittest athletes,” said Gus. “Now that so many people participate and there are more boxes, a larger number of people can get involved.” Zac Bennett, a 32-year-old Veteran Affairs medical coder, has been an athlete at CrossFit Glorified for two years. Before starting CrossFit, Bennett was doing ordinary workouts at a regular gym. His wife, Kayla, began going to Fit 4 Life Farm before he did. She and the Florezes After moving to Limestone, Tennessee, from Connecticut, talked him into giving it a try. Lourdes Florez strives to honor God by helping others with He knew after the first workout that it their health and fitness. was something that he would enjoy. He liked the challenge, competitive spirit, the warmups before their workout of the day. camaraderie and fellowship. CrossFit Glorified does not just offer Bennett suggests CrossFit to people every activities for adults. The farm provides a chance he gets. soccer program for children ages 2-13. The “I’ve seen people goal is to help the overcome injuries “CROSSFIT’S DOABLE children build through CrossFit,” said skills, balance and Bennett. “I myself came FOR ANYONE. THERE coordination. through a significant Lourdes said it helps shoulder injury by doing ARE NO LIMITATIONS.” the younger ones learn it. Gus and the coaches –GUS FLOREZ to socialize in a group at CrossFit Glorified environment. The actually rehabbed me children have an extra through my injury.” sense of comfort because they start out with Bennett has been to other affiliates, but he a parent. said that there is something special about As they start to get more comfortable the CrossFit Glorified–a sense of community. parent will slowly move back, and let them Those at the farm are not just a group of play on their own. people coming together for fitness; it’s a “It’s my favorite thing to teach,” said family atmosphere. Lourdes. “We cut up with each other, have a good CrossFit Glorified also offers the option of time sweating together. I consider those at field day for group field trips, and provides CrossFit Glorified as brothers and sisters,” party venues. said Bennett. “CrossFit’s doable for anyone,” said Gus. At the farm, some of the classes do regular “There are no limitations.” workouts and others cater to a specific group of people. One of these groups is called S.W.E.A.T. It’s an all-woman group that incorporates activities that aren’t done in the regular classes. For example, women do dances for


18 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2018


to tango (Uruguayans and one American)

Through the common language of music, a friendship was formed between three students

STORY AND PHOTOS BY RAINA WISEMAN Diego Núñez, Rodrigo Guridi and Michael Luchtan of Arrabal perform in the Carnegie Hotel lobby.


n 2010, Michael Luchtan set out on an adventure to Mexico, hoping to learn Spanish and study Mexican heritage through its music. Along the way, he hoped to find connections to his own culture. In 2016, Rodrigo Guridi came to East Tennessee State University from Uruguay to continue his music studies. His friend Diego Núñez would later follow. Through Arrabal, a tango trio born from the three men’s love of music, Luchtan’s goals have been realized. “Music doesn’t know about borders,” Núñez said. “People used to cross borders and music would just go with the people.” Luchtan, 40, is in the Masters of Arts in Appalachian Studies program at ETSU, where he studies the Appalachian region, culture and history. He is a Georgia native but now lives in Johnson City, Tennessee. Guridi, 32, is a sophomore viola performance major. He came to ETSU in 2016 on a music scholarship. Núñez, 27, is a freshman violin performance major who obtained a scholarship in 2017. “They’re both quite advanced players,” said David Kováč, assistant professor in the ETSU Department of Music, about Guridi and Núñez. “I think for them being international students and coming here just to

improve, learn and get a degree to probably go home and share with younger students— it’s a pretty big comment on their work.” Guridi and Núñez say their transition to Northeast Tennessee has been rewarding, but difficult. They believe their undergraduate program has relieved some of the pressure because it requires less English than some majors at the university. “We got lucky because we are studying music, and that is a common language,” Guridi said. “Once you are playing music, you have nothing to understand but that.” However, they have to take courses outside of the music department to complete their degrees. “Diego was telling me it’s a little bit difficult just because everything is in English,” Kováč said. “You know, you have to take all the general education classes, but I think they’re both working very hard. Rodrigo did very well last year.” Luchtan and Guridi became friends at the beginning of 2017. The two were participating in an event on campus for international students to meet American students when Luchtan revealed he had played tango music. Not only did Luchtan enjoy the music Núñez had grown up playing, he knew Spanish from his experience studying

in Mexico and could communicate that way with Guridi. “I found singing in another language to be the best way that I could learn because I already know how to sing, and I already know how to express those sorts of emotions,” Luchtan said. “So I could identify with the song that resonated with me and sometimes even know what the words were—what the translation was—before I’d even know what it was because I’d piece it together from the emotions in singing.” Luchtan had been living in and playing tango in Asheville, North Carolina, since his return from Mexico. “I was trying to figure out ways that you could bridge cultures with music, and I was thinking about what to do next,” he said. He started the Asheville Tango Orchestra and then began playing for a tango-dancing gathering called a “milonga.” He later brought Guridi to play in a group that had formed from some of the orchestra’s players. Tango originated in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, among lower classes, according to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage website. It was influenced by European immigrants, African slaves and South American natives who were in Uruguay and Argentina near the middle of

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 19 the 1800s. For this reason, it has tones of other music genres, but it mixes them together for its unique sound. “I think that it is something that people are not used to listening to here, so I think they find an interest in it,” Guridi said. “It has its own language.” Since Núñez came to Tennessee, the men have performed as a trio in their current home of Johnson City as well as in Asheville. They hope to start performing more to share their music and culture. Guridi and Núñez grew up together in Maldonado, Uruguay, which has about 182,504 residents according to U.N. Data statistics. They feel at home in Johnson City because of the similar community feel and population size. The Tri-Cities are home to about 146,592 people, according –DIEGO to U.S. Census Bureau data. Their mothers were friends, and they played in the same children’s orchestra since Guridi was 14 and Núñez was 9. They joined a quartet for fun, and it eventually turned into their jobs before they began studying at ETSU. Guridi calls Núñez his “musical brother.” This was part of the reason Núñez followed him to ETSU to continue studying music

together. Núñez and Guridi are on scholarships through the university that cover part of their tuition. Participating in groups like the ETSU orchestra and choir and the Johnson City Symphony makes living in another country and attending school financially possible. Luchtan says he understands the struggle his friends face while being in a new place. “When you leave a place, you leave your entire social network and how to get gigs and stuff,” Luchtan said. “To come to this place, it’s like your source of income is kind of cut off, and it’s hard to figure out how to get gigs.” Guridi is thankful Luchtan knows several local musicians and can make connections for the trio. “That was something I missed … because NÚÑEZ when I came here, I had to start everything from zero,” Guridi said. “All of life that you can imagine. … All the relationships and connections that I had to get a job and get gigs. Suddenly, you have nothing.” Despite the adjustments, Núñez and Guridi said they have found a community that resembles home. Luchtan makes them feel like they still have the friendships they left behind in Uruguay. “I thought when I came here, I was going to feel apart from my country, but with this group, it’s like a portion of Uruguay here,” Guridi said. The men plan to keep performing and work toward their various long-term music goals. Guridi and Núñez say they will probably return to Uruguay after graduating to share what they learned at ETSU. Luchtan says he wants to continue using music to bridge cultural divides. “As internationals here, we want to work, but we want to do something we want to do,” Guridi said. “It’s about fellowship, and it’s about projects and it’s about what is coming. We are very excited about it.”

Diego Núñez tunes his violin before his gig.

Arrabal has performed in Johnson City, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina.



20 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2017

FÚTBOL A game-changer for East Tennessee’s Hispanic community STORY AND PHOTOS BY JONNY SUTHERLAND

Members of the Real Barca team celebrate their victory.


occer, football, fútbol, whatever language is spoken and no matter where the origin, this sport has a global language. Throughout the cold winter nights in Johnson City, Tennessee, groups of men and women from various backgrounds come together to play fútbol. For Hispanic Americans, fútbol is an important part of life. The Johnson City Indoor Soccer leagues offer a place for communities to come together and play the game they love. Located in Unicoi County, Johnson City Indoor Soccer has been popular in the area

since its formation. The Latino community is prevalent in the night leagues, which contributes to a diverse environment of cultures.


The Mexican restaurant Seven Hermanos has one of many teams that play in the

men’s Thursday night league. Seven Hermanos owner J. Jesus Leon has noted how beneficial the league has been to the Latino community. “I believe that the soccer league helps the Latino community stay connected,” Leon said. “It’s great having so many different guys from different countries that come together to play.” Because fútbol is so popular, having a place to play can help people connect to that important part of their culture. Latin American teams have historically performed well on the fútbol world stage. They have produced famous players, such as Javier

2017 | El Nuevo Tennessean 21

Hernandez from Mexico, Radamel Falcao from Colombia, Lionel Messi from Argentina and Neymar from Brazil. A handful of Latino teams play in the league, which adds to the atmosphere. The league has a total of 12 teams that compete in two separate divisions – Thursday Night B- League, and Thursday Night B+ League. Leon said the competitiveness stems from each team’s strong desire to win. “There is a rivalry there during the games,” he said. “It just comes from playing on the field. Everyone just wants to win the same amount.” Leon was born in Jalisco, Mexico, but moved to the U.S. when he was 14. He opened Seven Hermanos only three years ago. Leon uses the indoor soccer league as a distraction from his work. He finds it an enjoyable, relaxing hobby. “A few customers invited me to come and play in the league,” Leon said. “I accepted their offer and thought it would be something enjoyable to do after work.” Competition leads to tough tackles, thrown elbows and harsh words. However, Leon claims there is no animosity between teams after the final whistle blows. Players shake hands at the end of each game and leave their on-field disputes behind them. “After the games I like to go and speak to the guys from the other teams to stay in touch,” Leon said. “It lets us all get to know each other.” The adult indoor league runs through the winter. However, various other competitions – with age groups ranging from 3 years old to a varsity level – are held all year. Johnson City Indoor Soccer owner Michael Balluff, who has been very influential in the improvement of soccer in Johnson City, commented on the league’s benefits to the community. “Johnson City Indoor Soccer plays a large role within the local soccer community,” Balluff said. “During the winter months, over 1,400 players compete weekly, in what for many is the only exercise and touches on a ball they get.” Balluff said the fútbol leagues have broken down barriers of diversity. When the Thursday night league first started, many teams were all-white, or all-Latino;

Real Barca match-up against The Pass Holes at Johnson City Indoor Soccer.

this has changed significantly since Johnson City Indoor Soccer has grown. Balluff believes that Johnson City Indoor Soccer improves relationships among different communities. According to Balluff, the league has also brightened the economic outlook for businesses in the Johnson City area. “Because our participants also range greatly in terms of income demographics, the indoor leagues have led to opportunities in business and employment that may not have developed without soccer,” Balluff said. One team expected to do well this year is Real Barca. The Latino players wear the famous Real Madrid shirt, which is a sign of their support for Spanish professional teams. Juan Ramirez, the starting goalkeeper, spoke about the variety of fútbol styles in the league. “It depends where you are from,” Ramirez said. “Being from another country may mean a different style of play.” Ramirez was born in Mexico and moved to America seven years ago; he is a student at Unicoi County High School. While the fútbol scene is still growing in Johnson City, Balluff sees an increase in demand and popularity. He believes that the growth of the sport leads to the growth of the city. “Soccer also plays a role in increasing the attractiveness of the community to possible new residents,” he said. “Many families and individuals when choosing where to relocate for work will consider the amenities a community has.” Balluff says the attractiveness of improved public recreation could have the potential to lead to new community ties. The possibility of a growing social structure, with soccer as a focal point, gives the isolated communities the opportunity to integrate. According to Ramirez, there is definitely a deeper emotional tie than just playing fútbol. “It brings us all together,” he said. “On a team we all feel like family.”

A Real Barca team member scouts the field with the ball in his possession. PAGE DESIGN // JONNY SUTHERLAND

22 El Nuevo Tennessean | 2018

Indoor Pollution

Close to Home

Dr. Mildred Maisonet and her research



burning log in the fireplace may produce a pleasant smell, but this method of warming a home in the winter may present risks to people with respiratory problems. Smoke, whether from wood, coal or tobacco products, gives off particles in the air that are considered household air pollutants. A new five-year study looks at how those airborne particles affect patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, who live in rural and urban areas. The patients will be visited three times over a span of six months, and monitors will be placed in their homes to look for toxins in the air. Dr. Mildred Maisonet, a professor at East Tennessee State University, leads the rural side of the study. According to the COPD foundation, COPD is a term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma and some forms of bronchiectasis. People with this disease generally have symptoms like increased coughing and breathlessness. “We live in an area where ... tobacco smoke, and burning of solid fuels like wood or coal for cooking and heating, are

Dr. Mildred Maisonet speaks with graduate student Titilayo James at ETSU.

major sources of household contaminants,” Maisonet said. Originally from Puerto Rico, Maisonet has worked at ETSU since 2014 in the


biostatistics and epidemiology department. As an epidemiologist, she studies disease occurrence and its causes, using this information for disease prevention and control. Maisonet’s previous research has included the impact chemicals have on female

reproduction, including menarche, or a girl’s first menstrual period. According to Maisonet, this research is important for maintaining the human species. “For women, one of the most important things in the world is being a mother,” she said. “When you have fertility problems and they can be explained by environmental factors, we can recommend modifications to prevent them.” She began her study of household air pollutants and COPD morbidity after moving to Johnson City, Tennessee, to work at ETSU. “As I came to Johnson City, I found a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to find,” she said. “Two of the concerns I had were the level of poverty and the lack of education about indoor pollutants.” After being invited to participate in the indoor pollution research project, she found that she could address these concerns. The research project is part of a $1.5 million grant, and 100 people were projected to participate in the study. As of now, the research has been underway for a couple of months and has enrolled 15 participants. Maisonet’s alma mater, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 23 Baltimore, Maryland, will be partnering with ETSU on the project. Maisonet has been interested in science from an early age, and said it was her favorite subject in school. “I have always been interested in learning how things worked,” she said. “I was always very enthusiastic about math and science for as long as I can remember.” In college, Maisonet also liked computer programming, and wanted to incorporate her interests in both. Upon reading “Medical Detectives” by Berton Roueché, which included stories about diagnosing diseases in a population, she was fascinated. At that point she decided to become an epidemiologist. She also learned biostatistics, because of her interest in computer technology. She earned both her bachelor’s degree in biology and her master’s degree in epidemiology at the University of Puerto Rico. After college, Maisonet began an internship working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1998, which soon turned into a permanent position. She worked in the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the CDC, where the focus was to protect communities from harmful health effects related to exposure from dangerous natural and manmade substances.

Maisonet with ETSU graduate student Prem Gautam.

In 2001, she earned her doctorate degree in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins. “I loved my professors at Johns Hopkins,” she said. “They were people with a lot of experience that you get over years and years, and were very knowledgeable. They all worked together and Maisonet listens during a lecture at ETSU. coordinated the members of the community,” he said. work that they gave us.” She and Silver also worked as coMaisonet appreciated the diverse investigators for the Tennessee Board population of the school. of Regents’ “Train the Leaders” project. “It was nice to be able to acquire This initiative sponsored the 2016 knowledge about other cultures while I Environmental Health Leadership Health was getting my doctorate, and to have Institute for 28 area Hispanic high school made friends there that will probably last a students. lifetime,” she said. “I love the fact that it is a collaboration Besides working for the CDC and the Pan between our two departments, epidemiology American Health Organization, Maisonet and environmental health,” Silver said. collaborated with the Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta from 2003 to 2006, “Scientifically, the team is asking important questions about a common disease in and worked for the University of Oulu in middle-aged and older people.” Finland as a lecturer for 18 months. She The U.S. Department of Health and moved to East Tennessee after that. Human Services reports that approximately Kenneth Silver, an associate professor 12 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed of environmental health at ETSU, met with COPD, and 120,000 die from it each Maisonet when year. An additional 12 million adults in she started at the the U.S. are thought to have undiagnosed university three COPD. years ago. Maisonet has tips for those hoping to Since then, the reduce the amount of indoor toxins in their two have worked homes. She suggests testing the home, together on making cleaning supplies from recipes projects. online and avoiding fragrances. “We speak the “For fragrances like perfume, they are same language made up of chemicals that we do not know,” of epidemiologic she said. “They are protected by property study designs, laws. So, if you have a perfume, no one the feasibility knows what’s in it because that is something of working companies don’t want getting out there. with regional They don’t want people getting their recipe populations and and copying it.” the desirability of involving PAGE DESIGN // CALLI ANDERSON

2018 | El Nuevo Tennessean 24

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El Nuevo Tennessean 2018 English  
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