Hispanic liaison bridging culture gap

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - There are more than 18,000 Hispanics living in Chesterfield County, and that number is expected to rise in the next few years. The county is taking notice.

He's a hot commodity. Juan Santacoloma rushes between county departments and his office working to meet the needs of local Latinos.

"I try to solve all the different problems or concerns that Latinos have," he said.

He even works with police who need him to translate an urgent message.

"I can say that maybe 5 years ago the Latino population in Chesterfield was maybe 7,000 and right now we are more than 18,000," said Santacoloma.

Did you know there was a Hispanic Liaison? "No I sure didn't," said Chesterfield resident Maria Cardona.

15 years ago when she moved to Chesterfield his services would have been a life-saver.

"A lot of the Hispanic community doesn't speak English and they need the opportunity for somebody to be able to help them," said Maria.

Although she speaks English, Santacoloma helps translate the exact message so there's no confusion.

"We are here to work. We are here to get ahead. A lot of us are here to make a difference and also contribute to the economy," Maria said.

And although Juan is the face of the county's effort to bridge the culture gap, he says all departments are making an effort.

"Many departments have hired Latinos or bi-lingual and bi-cultural in many cases," Santacoloma said.

But one thing is on his wish list.

"The main thing is ESL classes, or English as a second language classes," he said.

Until then Juan will answer calls and dig for information- translating along the way. If you know somebody who needs to get in touch with the Hispanic Liaison they can call 796-7085.

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