New Latino organization launched in Monett

Thursday, April 26, 2012
Officers for the new Asociaci--n Latino "Imagen" were installed Sunday at the Drury University campus in Monett. Mayor Jim Orr administered the oath of office. From left, are: Teresa Cruz, secretary; Adela Garcia, president; Mayor Orr; Fermin Sanchez, vice president; Luis Cecenas, liaison; and Valentin Vizcaino, treasurer. Not pictured is Pastor Francisco Mateo, liaison. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]

Installation ceremonies were held on Sunday for the new Asociaci--n Latino "Imagen." Monett Mayor Jim Orr swore in the officers during the meeting at Drury University's Monett campus.

Adela Garcia, president, thanked those who attended the event and led a discussion about upcoming plans. The association is sponsoring Dr. Luis C--rdoba, who will be speaking in Monett on May 6.

Having worked with Latino gangs for 30 years, C--rdoba will speak on "Do you know where your child is?" He will speak at the Monett Middle School auditorium, presenting a session from 3 to 5 p.m. in English, then speaking in Spanish, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Garcia distributed fliers on the event in Spanish and English to encourage participation. Attendance was also encouraged for the meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Plaza Mexico, located at Thirteenth and Broadway. Norma Ramirez de Miess from the National Main Street Center will speak on Latino participation in the efforts to revive Monett's downtown.

A flier was also distributed about another meeting about a meeting in Purdy. Charles Pratt, a community relations officer with eight years experience in immigration, will speak on immigratin issues at 5 p.m. on April 25 at the Purdy Pentacostal Church, located at Highway 37 and Farm Road 2070.

Plans have also begun for a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in September at Monett's South Park. Activities and booths representing many countries are expected. An Adopt A Highway application is being prepared as well.

Garcia said the association wanted to emphasize involvement in the community. Ten years ago, efforts to organize the Hispanic community in Monett had been rebuffed.

A decade later, the Latino community has become more established in Monett. The leaders hoped that another generation, raised in the community, would be more open to joint efforts.

Reluctance about becoming involved surfaced again in recent conversations with some merchants about attending the session with Ramirez de Miess, Garcia said. She encouraged conversations about the benefits of working together.

Fausto Villagrana, with the First United Methodist Church in Monett, said other outreach efforts, such as the Community Kitchen, are there to help those in need and have nothing to do with a specific religion or church.

Alma Villagrana said some Hispanics say they have not attended the Community Kitchen because they don't like "American food." When Hispanics have helped in the meal preparation and a Mexican menu is publicized, there has been greater attendance by Anglos, who like the variety, than by Hispanics.

Part of the organization's emphasis is on the image of Hispanics. Garcia said looking good will help public perception.

Many expressed an eagerness to begin work. Committees will be set up for specific tasks. The association plans to meet monthly on a Sunday. Participants will be encouraged to fast on the first Friday of the month as a way of asking for God's blessing and creating a positive environment for the organization's work.

Representatives from the Hispanic communities in both Springfield and Joplin attended Sunday's meeting to show support for the organizing effort. Adolfo Castillo, a consultant for the Missouri Committee on Human Rights from Joplin, said he is focusing on promoting the Hispanic vote in the fall election. He viewed the meeting as a positive development to help engage Latinos within their community.

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