Cultural understading worthwhile, but it’s hard work |

Cultural understading worthwhile, but it’s hard work

Michael Robinson
Vail, CO, Colorado

We’ve just concluded the celebration of Hispanic culture known as Hispanic Heritage Mont, and sad to say, we’ve done so without much fanfare.

Eagle County is quickly becoming part of a larger national trend with an influx of Latin Americans to our slice of heaven known as the Vail Valley. From a business perspective and from a community perspective, we have an opportunity to set trends that incorporate, include and invigorate the growing Hispanic population, but not without some serious understanding and debates on topics including illegal immigration, workforce housing and English as a second language But first, let’s talk about Hispanic Heritage Month.

The official recognition of the month is Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries ” Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico’s independence day is Sept. 16, and Chile’s is Sept. 18.

Part of what makes our culture great is the ability to incorporate and accept new cultures, new ways of life and new ideas into our sense of place, and for the next several decades, all of our culture, including here in the Vail Valley, will seek to introduce elements of the Hispanic culture and change the way we live ” and for the better.

The countries whose independence serves as the motivation to Hispanic Heritage Month are the same countries that comprise the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Its been a couple of years since this landmark legislation passed the Senate by the slimmest of margins, and the benefits that have been realized by businesses throughout the US, including Colorado, continues to be impressive.

After decades of receiving Central American goods with little or no tariff, thanks to the agreement, American business can now sell goods and services to our neighbors to the south on a level playing field. Almost 80 percent of all U.S. exports became duty-free immediately (including cotton, wheat, soybeans, key fruits and processed food products) with tariffs on remaining consumer and industrial products being phased out between over the first 10 years of the agreement.

When business works together, everyone benefits. Business is able to provide more and better jobs, deliver its products and services more efficiently, and add to the overall quality of life enjoyed by the community where the business is located. That’s the primary reason that our business community should look to work together for the greater good of everyone in Eagle County. Collaboration is key ” incorporating new ideas and ways of doing things is fundamental ” and if we take a lesson from how our community can celebrate our diversity, we stand a much better chance to be a changing force in our state, our region, and our nation.

No easy task

It’s not an easy task. At the heart of what needs to be tackled are workforce housing, immigration and health care, to name just a few. I’m actually writing this from Washington, D.C. where the Vail Valley Partnership is participating in an event called “Bureaufest” where destination marketing organizations from around the country promote their assets and seek business from group and meeting planners in association-rich Washington. To make the most of this trip, I’ve also been meeting with our Congressional representatives, including Senator Ken Salazar.

Salazar understands the challenges of our immigration policy needs, and told me that soon a revised version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (or DREAM) Act will make its way to the Senate floor as early as this week. This is an important first step being taken by Congress to revisit immigration policy and must be watched by citizens and businesses alike.

Salazar understands that the Eagle County business community has historically been quiet on this issue on the federal level, and asked for greater attention and involvement moving forward. I hope that the Partnership can count on all of you as we begin this important debate.

Participation is critical

Participation is essential for collaboration, so I invite all of the businesses in the county to become engaged and bring your unique perspectives to the discussion. The Partnership has committees, task forces and the like to allow you to become active participants, and I can’t encourage you to find the time to participate strongly enough.

The goal is not necessarily a month-long celebration, but rather a commitment to work together, share and create a new culture within our valley, a culture that’s based on diversity, understanding and tolerance, but focused on progress, growth and sustainability. Much like the energy and commitment that has guided the countries in Central and South American to work together.

I believe that it is the future of Eagle County to work together, and to work hard. This issue, and in fact Hispanic geritage, takes on a special meaning to me, not only because I’m a dedicated strategist and believe that all success is the result of collaboration, but I’m also part Hispanic, believe it or not.

My father was born and raised in Tela, Honduras and was the son of an American engineer and a beautiful Honduran woman. My dad always would say to me, “trabajando bastante” ” “working hard” ” and impressed on me that hard work was the way to anything worth having.

So I challenge our county’s businesses to embrace the work ahead. It’s critical to our ability to shape a future that can compete and continue to provide the quality of life that we all come to expect in the Vail Valley. Or, in the words of my father – trabajando bastante!

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