published Thursday, April 19th, 2012

La Paz plans to honor Latino leaders in the community

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    Stacy Johnson, executive director of La Paz Chattanooga

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• To nominate a local Latino leader, send an email by July 31 to Rachael Watkins at

• To read about other nominees, visit La Paz Chattanooga

The number of Hispanics in Hamilton County in the area is still not too large compared with the total county population, but it’s definitely growing.

A decade ago, there were fewer than 6,000 Hispanics in Hamilton County; today they number more than 15,000, according to U.S. Census data.

And La Paz Chattanooga, an organization that works with the Hispanic community, wants to make sure Latino leaders are recognized.

“We want businesses and nonprofits to look inside their organization and see if there are Latino leaders amongst them,” said Stacy Johnson, executive director of La Paz.

There’s nothing in the area now that recognizes Latino leaders in this community. La Paz wants to change that, she said, so it is inviting people to nominate those unsung leaders.

“It’s really important for the entire community to see [that] the Latino community can be and is successful,” she said.

About 10 people have been nominated so far, including business owners and nonprofit workers from countries ranging from Argentina to Venezuela.

Carlos Parra, a professor of Spanish and literature at Southern Adventist University, came to Chattanooga in 2000 from Arizona and is one of the nominees.

“If we have Latino leaders, that means we have an increase in the Latino population,” said Parra, a native of Colombia. “Knowing that the south of the U.S. is being the area that has one of the highest increases in the Latino community, I think [recognizing Latino leaders] is significant.”

The Latino share of Tennessee’s population grew from 0.7 percent in 1990, to 2.2 percent in 2000 to 4.5 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census.

Parra said it’s good for the community to know there’s a lot of diversity within the Hispanic community, from country of origin to customs and professions.

“It seems to me it kind of gives a better picture of what the Latino community is as a whole,” he said. “We have Latinos from many different backgrounds in the area, and the community needs to know about that.”

La Paz will honor the nominees during a ceremony in September, Johnson said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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