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SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL
Rising Hispanic Population Causes Friction In S. Florida Retiree Strongholds
By Jodie Needle, Staff Writer
June 18, 2003
Long-time meccas for Jewish retirees are quickly becoming havens for Hispanics.
And the transition isn't always easy.
Take the Bonaventure area in Weston, for example, where Hispanics are lobbying for changes at the community's Town Center Club. Tonight, heated discussions are expected when a diversity committee presents its recommendations. Among them: offer English classes later so working Hispanics can attend, extend club hours to accommodate Hispanics who would prefer to use it later and make the newsletter, or at least more of it, available in Spanish.
Five-year resident Bernice Hyman, 63, resents such requests.
"You can't be so narrow-minded and live in the United States of America and expect that everybody is going to gear activities and things to Spanish-speaking people," she said. "You've got to learn the language."
But some committee members argue that learning English is a challenge, so changes could make the process easier. Others stress that since most Bonaventure residents must belong to the club and pay its $255 yearly membership fee, Hispanic members deserve to know information about the amenities in Spanish.
Other members, including Hispanics, disagree, saying that only safety signs such as "No diving in the shallow end" of pools should be in Spanish and English.
Weston's Hispanic population is believed to be close to 40 percent -- up from 18 percent a decade ago, recent Census figures show. In Broward County as a whole, Hispanics make up about 17 percent, with the boom into retirement communities concentrated mainly in South Broward so far.
Bonaventure resident Terrie Carioscia, 70, says offering information in Spanish deters Hispanics from learning English.
Besides, she says, "if you you start printing everything in Spanish for them, we'll still be divided. And what about Pakistanis? They'll want it in their language. Or Italians? It's not fair to cater to one group and the rest you forget about."
Adds Philip Lisnek, 82, "We don't mix Hispanic people are coming in and remaining Hispanic. They're not going out of their way to speak English, so the oil and water are not mixing."
Strong opinions about language are common. Despite an influx of newcomers to the area, South Floridians have not become more accepting of other languages, according to a recent poll conducted for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and NBC6.
That's sometimes the case at Century Village, a 15,000-resident retirement community in Pembroke Pines, a city where more than a quarter of its residents speak only Spanish.
A rise in the number of Hispanics in Century Village recently prompted the COOPPA Guardian newspaper, one of two publications within the community, to begin printing a president's message in Spanish and English.
"I would like to see it all in English," said Hymen Tadelman, 77, who speaks some Yiddish. "I think people who moved here from Cuba, Central or South America, I think they're supposed to read and speak English."
Other, however, welcome the changes.
Just five years ago, Century Village's Sociedad Hispano-Americano club had about 40 members. Now, it boasts more than 800, of which, about 150 are Anglos, said Gladys Huguet, the club's vice president.
The group, which says it welcomes all cultures, raises money for charity and hosts weekly dances, such as June 13's Tropical Fiesta that drew about 450 people to the clubhouse for dinner and salsa dancing.
Club president Mike Barea said he understands how some residents initially have trouble adjusting to a new culture.
"We come in, we're boisterous, we like music," Barea said. "We are happy people, whereas most of the other people are quiet and reserved."
Some old-time residents who are members enjoy the club but say they sometimes feel out of place, even though the group tries to translate a lot of its Spanish into English. At the recent party, most guests spoke Spanish, except for the few "Anglo" tables where English was spoken.
Amid mariachi music and Spanish being spoken over the microphone, Nancy Ferretti said, "I feel like the minority."
Ferretti, who is a director of her building, says she has encountered language barriers with some of her fellow residents. That, she said, makes it difficult to communicate information such as when the building might be painted. Often, she tries to use her Italian language skills or resorts to makeshift sign language to talk to Spanish-speaking neighbors.
Such communication barriers can be frustrating.
Andy Ramudo, a Cuban-born American serving on the Town Center Club's board of directors since January, said uneasiness between the cultures prompted the need for the diversity committee but said if people were patient, the transition would be easier.
"You don't learn a language overnight," he said.
"You don't learn it by decree either," said Néstor Cárdenas, a diversity committee member.
So much Spanish is spoken at the Town Center Club that Magnolia Escobar, a club receptionist for 10 years, was recently named the community's bilingual specialist. She estimates she spends half her day explaining things in Spanish and the other half in English.
She says she sees the cultures merging. Often, she says, she sees English speakers welcoming newcomers by informally pairing with them to practice conversations.
Said 9-year resident Mike Gonzales, who served on the diversity committee, "It's our responsiblity as immigrants to integrate ourselves into the community -- not the other way around.''
Carioscia stressed that providing information in two languages will only further divide the cultures.
"If you spoonfeed people, [by printing information in Spanish] when are `they' going to become `we?''
HEY!: Abelino Lasalle, 86, originally from Puerto Rico, dances with Gladys Molina, originally from Cuba, during the Sociedad Hispano-Americano club's tropical fiesta. The weekly event drew 450 people June 13 for dinner and salsa dancing. Five years ago, the club at Century Village in Pembroke Pines had 40 members. Today, there are 800. Staff photo/Michael Laughlin\ MIXING?: Olaria Augustino, originally from the Dominican Republic, gets in the spirit on the dance floor during the Sociedad Hispano-Americano tropical fiesta. Some residents of communities with rising Hispanic populations say the newcomers should learn English. Staff photo/Michael Laughlin