Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Casa Chiapas looks to bridge gap for unique immigration group

TAMPA — When the lights at Mort Neighborhood Park are shut off for the night, the lights in a small back room stay on.

Inside, a Mexican flag is positioned in front of a few metal folding chairs. English and Spanish workbooks line the bookshelves of a makeshift classroom.

Cielo Gomez, 33, is teaching Spanish to a 25-year-old woman from Chiapas, Mexico, while the woman's two children sit in the desks next to her finishing homework of their own.

Gomez is the head of Casa Chiapas, a community organization in the University Area that directly serves Hispanics, including the more than 5,000 Chiapan immigrants living in the area near the University of South Florida and Florida Hospital.

They come from one of the poorest and least developed states in southern Mexico. The average Chiapan has less than seven years of schooling, according to recent data from the Mexican government. And Chiapans do not speak Spanish. Most speak native Mayan languages Tsotsil and Tseltal.

Although they account for about 30 percent of the University Area Community Development Corporation's youth program participants, many Chiapans are hard to assist because of deep cultural and language divides.

Casa Chiapas hopes to change that.

Gomez left a position assisting students in English as a Second Language courses four years ago to create Casa Chiapas. Classes and community events were initially held in a small apartment in Tampa.

Gomez arranged math readiness, Spanish and English classes. Those who complete adult education courses can receive their middle school diplomas from the Secretary of Education in Mexico.

She teaches and runs Casa Chiapas with only a handful of volunteers and board members.

When someone in the Chiapan community is in need of medical assistance or other such emergencies, Gomez is the first person they call. Much of her work requires driving for people who have never had a driver's license.

Her unofficial motto: "By helping them, we give them the tools to help us or another person tomorrow."

Gomez's work with Casa Chiapas has helped to build trust between community outreach groups and a weary population, many of them undocumented.

At a recent Thanksgiving meal drive, Gomez brought 30 families in to the Community Development Corporation to receive free food.

"She has been that bridge for us to reach out to the community and say 'The programs here are for you,' " said Corporation chief executive Sarah Combs. "She's opened doors for us by walking families in."

Casa Chiapas also offers basketball and soccer leagues with the help of the Corporation. Romeo Gomez, 27, organizes and coaches the leagues. He said they are vital to tackling obesity, which is rampant in the Hispanic community. It also works to keep kids off the streets and away from drugs, which is a major struggle in the University Area.

"I like when the families are coming and enjoying watching the games," he said. "Our young people don't go outside, but this let's them move."

Casa Chiapas is run through small grants from the Chiapas state government and the federal government in Mexico. In recent years, those grants have gotten smaller.

The group receives roughly $5,000 each year from the Mexican government. It received an additional $18,000 from Chiapas when they first began in 2011. By 2014, Chiapas was sending only $14,000.

Most recently, donations from the Chiapas government have stalled, but the group remains hopeful it will come through.

Contact Roberto Roldan at [email protected]

Comments
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Hundreds flock New York City’s LaGuardia to greet migrant children flown in from the border

Hundreds flock New York City’s LaGuardia to greet migrant children flown in from the border

As Air Force One shuttled President Donald Trump back to Washington following a boisterous heartland rally, hundreds of people filled the terminals at the president’s hometown airport.The spontaneous demonstration at New York City’s LaGuardia was spa...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

ST. PETERSBURG — Three police lieutenants falsified records about where they were during work hours, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department — a severe violation of ethics for three leaders on the agency’s day shift.The lieutenants claimed ...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Reports: Man, 22, arrested in connection with death of rapper XXXTentacion

Reports: Man, 22, arrested in connection with death of rapper XXXTentacion

A suspect was arrested Wednesday evening in connection to the fatal shooting of Broward County rapper XXXTentacion, according to broadcast reports.According to Miami TV station WSVN, 22-year-old Dedrick Williams was arrested around 7 p.m.RELATED:XXXT...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Thirteen bald eagles were found dead in a field. This is what killed them.

Thirteen bald eagles were found dead in a field. This is what killed them.

The 13 bald eagles were found lifeless on a Maryland farm more than two years ago, many with wings splayed, bodies intact, and talons clenched. Several were too young to have their species’ distinctive white heads. And at least six, according t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-North Suncoast girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-North Suncoast girls basketball team

North Suncoast Player of the Year: India Lewis, Sr., FivayFirst teamG Jayde Doucette, Sr., River RidgeG Reagan Huden, Sr., SpringsteadF Andrea Wallace, Sr., SunlakeG/F Ices Utegg, So., River RidgeF/C Seytia Hill, Jr., Weeki WacheeSecond teamG Lyndsey...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Brandon man held on $750,000 bail, accused of 100 counts of child pornography

Brandon man held on $750,000 bail, accused of 100 counts of child pornography

A Brandon man has been charged with 100 counts of possession of child pornography after deputies discovered more than 100 images of child pornography on his computer, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Troi Amacher, 29, was arreste...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Rick Stroud talks about when we will know about a possible Jameis Winston suspension and why DeSean Jackson hasn't been more productive with the Bucs on today's podcast.Plus, who might the Rays trade next? Will the Lightning make any b...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

ORLANDO — Florida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement Thursda...
Updated: 2 hours ago