LIHU’E — About 25 Hispanic residents gathered for a town meeting recently to
look at ways of promoting the Hispanic culture on Kaua’i and to mobilize
politically to have their needs met by government officials.
They plan to
form a Hispanic council to convey their concerns to officials, use the media
to convey positive images of their culture and register with the U.S. Census
Bureau this year to bring federal dollars to Kaua’i.
“Our children demand
that we be here,” said Eduardo Valenciana, who hosted the meeting at the
Lihu’e Lutheran Church. He is owner of Tres Hermanos de Kaua’i and editor of
El Jardin newspaper, published on Kaua’i.
Valenciana said the meeting was
held to bring awareness that Hispanics are moving to Kaua’i and are visiting
the island in greater numbers than any other ethnic group.
boasts 5,000 Hispanic residents, he said. Many have moved to Kaua’i because
they see the island as a “safe place to raise their children,” Valenciana
Audience member Oliva Villagomez, a single mother said she and her
four children moved from Los Angeles to Kaua’i because she wanted to raise her
family in a drug-free environment.
And, Valenciana said, the economics of
Central and South American are continually improving to the point that there is
now a middle class that likes to travel.
Valenciana said he has a
difficult time convincing Kaua’i County to spend money to court Hispanic
Kaua’i Hawaii Visitors Bureau officials have said the
Hispanic market is a new and viable market, but one that will take time to
When Hispanic visitors come to Kaua’i, they will be sightseeing
without much help from government, Valenciana said. “There are no Spanish
(language ) signs at the (Lihu’e) Airport,” he said.
The needs of Hispanic
residents also aren’t being fully met at this time, Valenciana said.
of the county agencies —fire, police and other agencies — has
Spanish-speaking personnel, he said.
In an emergency, translators would
not be readily available to help Hispanic residents who don’t speak English
well, he said.
If services for Hispanics aren’t improved, Hispanics will
vote for officials that will listen to them, Valenciana said.
members Villagomez , Luis Hernandez and others said they hoped Monday’s town
meeting will serve as an impetus to get more Hispanics involved in the
Villagomez said she has had trouble getting the state to
release a $1,000 in monthly child support payments and hopes political
pressure wielded by the group will help her.
Hernandez said red tape has
prevented a Hispanic resident from getting married on Kaua’i.
becoming a larger part of American society and their needs should be met,
* By the year 2005, Hispanic Americans will
be the largest minority in the United State.
* By the year 2050, one in
every person in the United States will be Hispanic.
* The ten top radio
stations in the United States play Spanish music.
* Mexico has culturally
claimed the Southwest United States.
To assert their presence on Kaua’i,
Hispanics should register with the U.S. Census Bureau by April 1, said Oscar
Reconco, a community partnership specialist with the Los Angeles office of the
U.S. Department of Commerce of the Bureau of Census.
residents identify themselves as Hispanic rather than Caucasian will help bring
millions of federal dollars to Kaua’i, Reconco said.
Many Portuguese in
Hawaii, Valencia said, decided not to be identified as Hispanics in the census
figures in the past apparently because they didn’t want to be connected with
negative images that were used to portray Hispanics in the past, Valenciana
“Because of stereotyping, we have a cultural group that doesn’t want
to be recognized with Frito Bandito or Speedy Gonsalez,” Valenciana said. “But
that is gone. We have wonderful representatives.”
They include newsman
Gerald Rivera, singing star Ricky Martin and boxing champion Oscar de la
Should there be a record of a large Hispanic population on Kaua’i,
“there will be better benefits for the community, better roads, jobs,
hospitals,” Reconco said.
Reconco said he and Wanda Hanson, a Bureau of
Census representative from Honolulu, were on Kaua’i to encourage more Hispanics
to participate in the Census 2000.
Any information that is collected is
confidential and is protected by federal law, Reconco said.
“We aren’t here
to report to the U.S. Immigration Service. We aren’t here to report to DHS
welfare, and we aren’t here to do the housing project,” Hanson said. “Our
biggest job is to get people counted so that federal dollars can be allotted to
the states that deserve them.”
A U.S. Census employee who releases
confidential information could face a five-year prison term and a five-year
prison term, Reconco said.
The meeting was videotaped by Ho’ike and will
be televised at 4:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. from March 3-5, according to Mike
Stevens, a Ho’ike spokesman. Individuals interested in getting more information
about the meeting can reach Valenciana at tresbros@Yahoo. com.