JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After noticing a disconnect, one Tri-Cities woman made it her mission to connect Hispanic and Latino people in the Tri-Cities, not just with each other, but with local businesses.
“I call myself the Latino Yellow Pages,” said Maria Aramburu, Bilingual Realtor. “Through social media, I created a group called Tri-Cities Latinos, it all started about two years ago. It’s just a way for us to network with each other, get to know who we are get to know our businesses, and at the same time, support each other and help each other grow.”
Maria Aramburu is a bilingual realtor in the Tri-Cities, but her commitment to the community goes beyond putting a roof over people’s heads.
Aramburu moved to the Tri-Cities 16 years ago — just a teenager at the time — she said she sometimes felt isolated.
“If I heard somebody remotely speaking Spanish, like, on the other end of a Walmart, I will get excited, because it’s like, there’s somebody else here that speaks Spanish,” said Aramburu.
Now, she’s made it her mission to connect Hispanics and Latinos living in the Tri-Cities not only to each other but to essential businesses and new restaurants.
“If you speak Spanish and you don’t speak much English, we have a place where you can share with each other where to go get health insurance, where to go find the best deal with mortgage rates, where can you go open a bank account,” said Aramburu.
When it comes to banking questions Aramburu has Yesenia Viramontes, a friend and Regions Bank Branch Manager.
“People are afraid of going into financial institutions to just open a checking account or a savings account because the language barrier exists here in the Tri-Cities area,” Viramontes said. “So I came in to provide that peace of mind that it’s okay to come in and ask me questions. And we’re going to treat you the same way we treat everybody.”
Growing up in Southern California, Viramontes said she never thought being bilingual could prove so useful to help others.
Both women will tell you they’re willing to offer help outside their expertise.
“I’ve had people call me to help them do homework,” said Viramontes. “You try to do what you can and you tell them the resources available, but it feels really good.”
For some, reaching out online or over the phone can be intimidating. Aramburu came up with a solution: creating a presence at Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses, health fairs, and local schools to support local businesses and opening space for easy conversation.
“It’s a different conversation,” said Viramontes. “It just feels right, instead of you going into an institution and you don’t know what to ask. You’re afraid.”
Their most recent gathering was at the opening of Cafetos Coffee Shop on Market Street in Johnson City.
For owner Alejandra Romero, it was a welcome surprise.
“I was happy like it’s… we didn’t expect that but I was very surprised,” Romero said. “We’re doing good so far. It’s been steady all day.”
The Tri-Cities Latinos group continues to make little online connections to build bigger and better futures.
“Not only are they trusting you with their finances, but they’re trusting you with their family and their dreams that they have,” said Viramontes.
“The goal is to help those dreamers become doers, and get to that finish line and hit their goals,” said Aramburu.
To join the Tri-Cities Latinos Facebook page, click here.
Maria Aramburu can be contacted at her website.
Yesenia Viramontes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (423) 398-6723.