Many individuals unfortunately accept without question a stereotypical image of Hamilton County's growing Hispanic community. They believe that the majority of Latinos here are poor, uneducated, undocumented and a burden on society rather than a benefit to it. That cliched view is wrong and unfair, particularly since even a cursory attempt to learn the truth would provide evidence that Hispanics, by and large, are becoming active participants in mainstream society.
Indeed, the story of the Hispanic community here -- now numbered at more than 15,000 compared to 6,000 a decade ago -- mirrors the history of earlier groups of immigrants who came to this country and this community. Most, whatever their ethnicity, place of origin or religion, came in search of freedom and a better life for themselves and their children. The Latino community is no different. Most believe that those dreams can become real through hard work and the pursuit of education. They have proof that it can be done.
Hispanics now fill almost every rung on the socio-economic ladder here. Latinos increasingly own and operate successful businesses. Others hold responsible, white-collar jobs in industry and commerce, while still another group fills helps fill the ranks of the county's blue-collar workforce. And the growing presence and increasing success of Hispanic youngsters in classrooms across the county attest to their parents' desire see their children better educated themselves.
Progress and success among Hispanic residents, though, still goes largely unnoticed by the county's broader population. La Paz, an organization that works with Hispanics here, wants to right that oversight. To that end, the organization will recognize and honor leaders from the Hispanic community at a ceremony in September. It has started taking nominations, which can be forwarded by email to Rachael Watkins at rwatkins@lapazchattanooga. org.
Clearly the stereotyping of Latinos is not fair to the large number of Hispanics who are active and productive members of society. That's all the more reason to publicly honor the men and women whose beneficial lives and demonstrated leadership benefit the entire community.