Fort McCoy News Oct. 9, 2015

Hispanic Heritage Month speaker: Celebrate diversity

Public Affairs Staff

Diversity can be celebrated in many ways, said Michelle Pinzl, the guest speaker at Fort McCoy's Oct. 1 observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Pinzl is a visiting instructor and coordinator of the community interpreting certificate program at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis. She teaches Spanish, French, English, and interpreting classes, training students to communicate professionally in intercultural contexts.

Pinzl began her presentation with a role-playing exercise. She asked two Soldiers to come to the front of the room and attempt to communicate without using English. The two volunteers responded by using gestures and pointing to objects.

Master Sgt. Freida Carter (left) and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Miles (right) role-play a scenario under the direction of Michelle Pinzl (center), visiting instructor and coordinator of the community interpreting certificate program at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., during the Fort McCoy National Hispanic Heritage Month observance. Photo by Aimee Malone

Pinzl said she uses scenarios like this while teaching interpretation skills to illustrate the difficulties people have with a language barrier.

"We can celebrate diversity in lots of different ways, and I think one big one is to do that by accompanying one another," Pinzl said. "We can do that by walking with one another. We can do that by listening to one another. We can do that by being a witness to one another. And I think that you often do this in your jobs every day."

She said La Crosse and the surrounding communities are home to many people, both Hispanic and otherwise, who help bridge the gaps some Hispanics experience because they lack resources, paperwork, or language skills.

"I'd like to put a face with a name," Pinzl said. "We talk about all kinds of different groups of Latinos, but we don't always put two and two together, and you don't always see who these Latinos really are."

Pinzl displayed photos of Hispanic people living, learning, and working in western Wisconsin, such as Jesus Jambrina, an associate professor at Viterbo University who was born in Cuba, and Sammy Gondola, a sales representative at ADT who moved to La Crosse from Panama at the age of 22.

"They're here, in big numbers, in our small … community in western Wisconsin," Pinzl said.

Interspersed with those names and faces were statistics on how Hispanics and immigrants have affected Wisconsin.

For example, Hispanics in Wisconsin paid $605 million in federal taxes and $420 million in state and local taxes in 2013, Pinzl said, citing the Partnership for a New American Economy. She said 8 percent of all births in Wisconsin are to Hispanic mothers, and from 1990 to 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 74 percent.

About 5.5 percent of Wisconsin's population is Hispanic, Pinzl said, 55 percent of whom are foreign born. An estimated 54.1 million Hispanics live in the United States, or about 17.1 percent of the population. The United States has the second-largest Hispanic population in the world, she said, second only to Mexico.

Sgt. 1st Class Elena Arratia with the Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned Officer Academy said the presentation gave her a better idea of how many Hispanics live in Wisconsin and what sort of effect they have on the state. She said that as a Hispanic woman, "knowing that we are making a difference … brings (an) important perspective," Arriata said. "We're here to help."
Marjorie Ouellette, budget analyst for the 181st Infantry Brigade, said, "You don't realize how many people of Hispanic origin live in the area."

Photo 2
Michell Pinzl, visiting instructor and coordinator of the community interpreting certificate program at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., speaks to Fort McCoy community members during the installation's National Hispanic Heritage Month observance Oct. 1 at McCoy's Community Club. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol (Bonus photo, not in print edition)

Ouelette said the statistics, including how much Hispanics have paid in taxes, were especially interesting. "You don't realize, when you put them in a category, what people contribute to where you live."

Pinzl said she will donate the honorarium for the presentation to a competitive scholarship for an incoming student, preferably of Hispanic descent, in the community interpreting certificate program at Viterbo University. "For me, there is no better way to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month than to give back to the Latino community by helping our Latino students achieve such training and skills," she said.

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

For more information about special observances, contact the Equal Opportunity adviser at 608-388-8994.