As immigration has moved to the forefront of the American political scene, Bloomington's Hispanic population has simultaneously grown, according to Tim Gonzalez, Multicultural Minister at St. Paul's Catholic Center.
Also an active volunteer in organizations such as Centro Comunal Latino (CCL), Gonzalez estimates the Latino population in Monroe County at about 4,000.
The local Hispanic community is largely male, he said. The men often come to find work and then move on, after three to six months.
"Many of these young adult males are simply looking for a better job, and they pass through, he said. "Bloomington has very little to offer them."
There are not a lot of Latino families that come through Bloomington, but the few that do often stay, Gonzalez added.
"The families that do come tend to stay because they value Bloomington for the same reason that everybody else values Bloomington," he said. "It's family-oriented, friendly, it's a safe place, with good schools, all the things that they want for their families."
Staying in Bloomington, however, can be financially difficult.
"They'll make the sacrifice of not getting better jobs somewhere else because it's a great town to raise kids in," Gonzalez said. "Their kids come first, which is why they are here in the first place."
Gonzalez is a third-generation Mexican-American who has been involved in issues surrounding the Hispanic community since he joined St. Paul's. He believes in helping others and is interested in maintaining his heritage.
He volunteers much of his spare time helping the Hispanic community.
In 2006 Gonzalez, along with a number of others, decided that the Hispanic community needed help understanding U.S. culture. Out of this came an outreach program called Informate, Spanish for inform yourself. The first series was in July 2006.
Informate has become a "monthly education series," said Gonzalez. "You might call it a life-skills series because it deals with just that, life skills. It's all in Spanish, it's targeted toward the Spanish-speaking population, helping to explain different aspects of living in the United states that are important to them."
The first Informate series covered the importance of the U.S. legal process and how it differs from those of other countries.
One such difference is appearing at a court hearing.
In other countries, specifically Mexico, "it's a procedural formality," said Gonzalez. "It is an internal formality that a person does not need to show up for. ... (In the United States) not showing up is a major offense. You could do jail time and have certain heavy fines and be in contempt of court."
Record keeping by police is another difference.
"More importantly, in Mexico, where the majority of people are from, the law is basically an offense-by-offense type system," said Gonzalez, "meaning there's no cumulative affect."
Immigrants often do not understand this, and when they are caught speeding, for, say, a third time, and their licenses are taken away or they are put in jail, they don't understand what they did wrong, Gonzalez said.
Other Informate issues have included immigration law, civil rights, separating junk mail from bills, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and how to file taxes.
Informate aids the Hispanic community with problems that are called to the attention of people like Gonzalez, said his intern and IU senior Patricia Mota.
Informate is associated with the CCL, newly located at the Monroe County Public Library. Mota works on Informate and the development of the CCL. Her goal is to develop the Hispanic outreach in the community and to get more IU students involved.
Informate presentations are usually presented twice a month, said Mota. The next will be March 25 and 28 and will cover how to buy a home.
Kathleen Huff can be reached at email@example.com.