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Workshop will focus on bridging cultural differences

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Jim and Rosemary Tiffany stopped by the office last week to talk about the work they are doing to bridge the cultural divide in North Central Washington.

Tiffany is the former publisher of El Mundo and Rosemary teaches kindergarten at Lewis and Clark Elementary. For almost two decades, the two have been working in the community to build stronger relationships between Anglos and Latino. On Thursday, the City of Wenatchee's Diversity Advisory Committee is sponsoring a workshop at the Wenatchee Convention Center led by the Tiffanys that is open to the public.

What I appreciate about their work is that it focuses on sharing information rather than standing in judgment of people who disagree with them. They promote open and honest dialogue about issues that can be downright uncomfortable. There are times, Rosemary admits, when the comments people are painful, but they've learned to meet people where they are and accept them even when they strongly disagree.

If people want to know why Latinos tend to have many children, at the workshopp they'll learn that in the Mexican culture children are a gift from God. If they want to know why so many Latino names can be found in the police blotter, they'll discuss the impact of alcohol and underemployment. If it's a question of learning the language, they'll talk about how the kids who grow up here learn English readily but their parents often struggle with the difficulties of English.

"Every once in a while, we get pretty rough treatment (from attendees)," Jim acknowledges. But that doesn't discourage them. These are the sorts of issues and frictions that come up when people from two distinctly different cultures live in close proximity.

The Tiffanys see things changing in the community and there is greater acceptance than 20 years ago. A few years ago, the dual language program at Lewis and Clark was controversial but today Anglo parents are choosing to send their kids to the school for that experience. There's a waiting list.

At the recent local march for immigration reform, Jim noted, the marchers were treated with respect. That was not the case several years ago when advocating for the rights of immigrants brought catcalls and denouncements from some bystanders.

We have many things to work on when it comes to acceptance of Latinos. But it's not hard to imagine, given the current generation of kids who are coming up and accepting leadership roles in our communities, that times are changing and those rigid barriers are softening.

Here's how Rosemary sees the future: "Life is going to be really different in Wenatchee in a few years," she said. "People are going to get along with others and not be afraid to mix with other cultures."

Residents can sign up for the Bridging Cultural Differences workshop at the city's web site at wenatcheewa.gov. To see my interview with the Tiffanys, kindly log onto wenatcheeworld.com and click on videos.

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