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Latino-Anglo Partnership forms

Tim Mutrie

In hopes of enabling Latinos to integrate more readily into the Roaring Fork Valley community, a group of Anglo and Latino officials from government and advocacy groups has been assembled.

Tentatively called the Latino-Anglo Partnership, the group aims to identify major issues facing the valley’s Latino population, and then to effect positive change in those arenas. Immigration, labor and the need for a Spanish-language newspaper were the issues that dominated discussion at a meeting last week.

The group met for the first time formally last Thursday at Basalt Town Hall. About 20 people attended the meeting, including elected officials from midvalley governments, school officials from the Roaring Fork School District, representatives from several valley Latino advocacy groups, as well as private citizens.

“The primary issue facing the Latino community is immigration, without a doubt,” said Felicia Trevor, director of The Stepstone Center, a Latino-advocacy group in the valley. “And until they can relax when they have papers, that’s going to be the issue.

“Getting papers is such an arduous task that many of them who could have initiated the process years ago just didn’t worry about it because it wasn’t an issue until recently,” Trevor continued. “Now it’s a big deal with the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) in the valley.”

James Flynn, a clergyman who works with Latinos in the valley and elsewhere, stressed the importance of a partnership between Latinos and Anglos.

“The Latinos feel powerless,” Flynn said. “And that’s important for people in the valley to know and recognize. It’s difficult for the Latino community to decipher the goings-on, because there isn’t a newspaper. But believe me, there’s a fear and tension among the Latinos in this community.”

Along similar lines, attendees discussed the plausibility of generating a bilingual flier outlining citizens’ rights and responsibilities.

“Education about their rights is important – laws and procedures and such,” said Carbondale trustee Russ Criswell. “It seems like a really good first step, because if they know what’s going on – like their rights and responsibilities – then they won’t be so afraid.”

The issue of a Spanish-language newspaper came up repeatedly.

“The Latino community would be more able to be community-minded if there was a Spanish newspaper,” said Rosy Fernandez of the Stepstone Center.

“Sometimes information can cause panic in the Latino community,” added Silvia Barbera, longtime director of Asistencia Para Latinos, a Glenwood Springs-based advocacy group. “But I don’t think it would be that way if Latinos had access to good information so they could hear both sides of the story.”

Mention was made of recent valley news stories chronicling the arrests of several Latinos in connection with downvalley drug busts, as well as an attempted sexual assault in Aspen, allegedly committed by a Hispanic male who remains at large.

One of the partnership’s organizers, Basalt trustee Jacque Whitsitt, said she has discussed the possibility of a Spanish newspaper with Andy Stone, editor-in-chief of The Aspen Times. Several participants expressed a willingness to accompany Whitsitt to a meeting with Stone.

“I would really like to see this as an independent business with a Latino owner,” said Whitsitt, who added that she would also like to see additional Latino representation in the partnership. “But for sure, the Latino community is hungry for a newspaper.”

Presently, the only voice for the Latino community in the valley is a weekly talk show – “Panorama Informativo 21” – which airs Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. on KDNK. The station also airs two Spanish music shows, but all in attendance agreed that that is simply not enough.

“We need to let the Latino community know that there is an interest among community members in their affairs and well-being,” Flynn said. “I think that should be our foremost message at this point.”

“And I don’t think anyone has ever tried this particular approach before,” noted Whitsitt.

The next meeting of the Latino-Anglo Partnership is scheduled for Friday, July 7, at 7 p.m., at Basalt Town Hall.


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