Via Media

Another article on the growing Hispanic immigrant presence in supposedly surprising places, this this time in the NE US

Meanwhile, in New York’s Finger Lakes region, "there are tensions between Mexican immigrants and the Puerto Ricans," said Alejandra Molina, a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva. "You go to (the Spanish-language) Mass and the Puerto Ricans will sit on one side and the Mexican families will sit on the other side."

Longtime residents are generally welcoming in Newburgh, a city of about 28,000, but there remain challenges: a shortage of affordable housing, inadequate health care and nearly nonexistent public transportation. It is not unusual, said Carmen Vazqueztell, director of bilingual education in Newburgh schools, to see Mexican immigrants walking or riding bicycles along country roads at night.

Some see the lack of services as business opportunities to sell Oaxacan groceries, soccer supplies and airfare to Mexico City.

"You drive up and down Broadway and say, ‘Wow, look at this new business, and this one and this one and this one,’" Vazqueztell said. "They’ve really made a mark in this community."

Of course, nothing new, but the revitalization of formerly dead business areas is worth noting. I see it in our area – the main roads leading from our part of town (the south) to downtown are full of empty storefronts which are slowly being filled with businesses, mostly catering to Hispanic customers, and some to Asian (in case you don’t know, Fort Wayne has one of the largest concentrations of expatriated Burmese in the country). In our drive on Friday, it was quite noticeable in…Lingonier, I think. (don’t quote me. It was one of those towns). The outskirts were, of course, all Arby’d and Wal-Marted, but the downtown, obviously dead for a while, was now filled with shops with Spanish-language signs. Fascinating.

Meanwhile, Sandra sends along this story from the Indianapolis Star and remarks that in her view (I didn’t save the note and can’t quote directly – of course she said it much better herself!), the diminished role given to Catholic institutions in this story is part of the perspective that would like to convince Latinos that being "American" = being "not Catholic." Am I misquoting you, Sandra?

The Rev. Samuel Ruiz says the cross, with its vertical and horizontal intersecting beams, is more than just a sacred symbol of the Christian faith.

He sees it as a fitting symbol for his ministry to Indianapolis’ immigrant Hispanic community: Point them upward to God, while helping them get by here on Earth.

Ruiz, who is pastor of the Hispanic ministry at Emmaus Lutheran Church on the Near Southside, leads one of the more than 50 Hispanic congregations in the Indianapolis area.

The job involves not only conducting baptisms and preaching the Gospel but also helping new immigrants find jobs, learn English and keep their kids out of gangs.

"People who are in that survival environment, they need more than a church," said Ruiz, a 57-year-old Cuban immigrant whose congregation numbers about 40 people on Sundays.

More than 20 religious leaders, Ruiz among them, have banded together to form the Alliance of Hispanic Pastors in Indianapolis, which involves clergy from Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and other denominations.

While Hispanic pastors say they serve both spiritual and earthly needs, it is often down-to-earth problems such as unemployment, hunger or immigration problems that bring new arrivals to the church doorstep.

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