LIFESTYLE

Nashville Welcomes Immigrants with $5M Center

What do you think of when I say "Nashville"? The Grand Ole Opry? Country music? Barbecue? How about a thriving Latino community with entrepreneurial spirit and a cutting-edge community center to serve their needs?

Non-profit Conexión Americas held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Casa Azafrán Community Center in South Nashville last week. The cost of the building, which is set to open in October, is $5 million, with half of that money having already been raised.

A multi-purpose 28,000-square-foot building, and a nonprofit collaborative, Casa Azafrán will serve the community by providing everything from training opportunities, legal services, and exercise classes to art and cultural events, and a family health clinic for the uninsured and underinsured.

Nashville is not just home to a Latino population, it is home to a thriving, entrepreneurial Latino population that continues to grow.

Ten percent of Davidson County's population is made up of Latinos, whose numbers grew 134 percent between 2000 and 2010. Additionally, of the almost 40,000 business in the city about 1,500 businesses are Latino-owned; and some of Nashville’s Latino business owners were mentored through an entrepreneurship program at Conexión Américas, which was founded in 2002 to help educate Latino immigrants on tax preparation, home ownership, entrepreneurship, civic leadership and other life-improving, practical skills.

Renata Soto, co-founder of Conexión Américas, explained the symbolic name “Casa Azafrán.” Azafrán is the Spanish word for “saffron” – and the name was chosen to represent several things.

First, the production of saffron requires manual labor by many individuals – this represents the cooperation and hard work of Casa Azafrán’s future employees, partners, volunteers, supporters, and community members who will work hand-in-hand.  

Second, the etymology of the word “azafrán” which is Persian and Arabic gives a nod to the Spanish language’s historical Islamic and Arabic connections, ensuring that “Casa Azafrán” is not just a place for the Spanish-speaking community, but a place immigrants of all backgrounds who live in Nashville will feel welcome to visit and access services.

"The fact is our ancestors were hanging out in Northern Africa and in Southern Spain for many centuries before we all converged here in South Nashville," Soto said.

As Nashville awaits the opening of Casa Azafrán, I can’t help but think how great it would be if every community had access to a building filled with so much potential and so many opportunities.

Tracy López is a bilingual writer living outside the Washington DC metro area. She is the founder of Latinaish.com.

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Tracy López is a bilingual writer living outside the Washington DC metro area. She is the founder of Latinaish.com.

 

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