New Latino group makes connections
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN, Sentinel County Editor
Monday, 29 April 2013 07:52
When Marsha Olivarez's parents came from Texas to Ohio to harvest sugar beets in 1942, they felt an uncomfortable divide between migrant workers and Wood County's white population.
"They had no one," Olivarez said. "They had no resources. There was no where to turn for resources for people coming here."
In some ways, that isolation remains, according to Olivarez.
"People are trying to find their way in the area. There are no resources in Bowling Green for people to turn to," she said.
So local citizens of Latino heritage have created a community-based organization called La Conexion de Wood County.
The need for such an organization is growing, since the Latino population has jumped 40 percent in the decade after the 2000 census count, reaching 5,600 by 2010.
The La Conexion group currently has about 75 members, but would like to add more so they can reach out to Latinos who suffer problems due to language difficulties or feel a disconnect due to cultural differences.
The organization hopes to reach out to people born and raised here, and those who are newcomers to the area. Until it gets on more solid footing, the county-wide group is being sponsored fiscally by the Perrysburg Heights Community Association.
The organizers of La Conexion have had different experiences as their families tried to adjust to life in Wood County.
When Olivarez's family first came, Latinos weren't allowed in restaurants.
Gloria Pizana's father first came here from Texas to harvest crops. As Pizana was growing up, she remembered the "subtle" discrimination of those with Latino heritage.
Beatriz Maya moved to Bowling Green from Argentina 22 years ago, and quickly felt the sting of isolation.
"One thing very strong with Latinos is a sense of community," Maya said. "Our concept of family is very, very large, so we look at that everywhere we go."
To help connect Latinos with the community, the new organization is already offering English as a Second Language classes for free or for a low fee at the First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green. An enrichment program is offered at the same time for children, to help them with homework or other items.
"That's one of the first needs in the community," Maya said.
The group also wants to offer individual help to people struggling with language issues, by accompanying them to places such as the hospital, with school registrations, finding housing or transportation.
"You don't know the system and your language is shaky," which makes communication very intimidating, Maya said.
La Conexion members also want to help local Latinos work their way through the system to find employment.
And they want to make Latinos feel welcome - "to let them know there are other like-minded people in the community," Olivarez said.
"We're just showing a united front," she said.
"We just felt there were a lot of other cities that had a Latino organization," yet nothing in Wood County despite the growing Latino population, Pizana said.
Eventually, the organization wants to put together a booklet of resources, work on fundraising and more programming, and offer community cultural events to carry on Latino traditions for future generations.
Anyone wanting more information on La Conexion may email
or call (419) 308-2328.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 07:56