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Latin Center opens in Hagerstown

September 06, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Some Spanish-speaking Hagerstown residents are forming a Latin Center to bring people of the same language together. Their goal is to learn from and help one another, and to better this community.

Pastor Victor Raul Pulido is president of the nine-member board organizing the center. He estimated there are 1,000 Latin residents in Hagerstown.

His interest in a Latin center is simple.

"I love my people," he said.

Pulido, with the blessing of the Rev. Richard Wilson, church pastor, offers Spanish services at the Church of the Nazarene at 141 N. Edgewood Drive in Hagerstown each Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Pulido conducts prayer services at homes of the faithful on Friday nights.

Pulido was called here four years ago from a church in New York after Wilson saw his Latin congregation grow, realized the need for a Spanish-speaking pastor and asked church officials for help.

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Before coming to this country, Pulido spent time in Ecuador and Venezuela, teaching at seminary and serving as a pastor. He is a native of Colombia with a degree in theology. Pulido's wife, Maria, was born in Venezuela. The couple have two children, Natalia and Gellian.

When Pulido arrived in "this beautiful place" with his family, he found a growing population of Latin people. Some who came in search of jobs needed food and shelter until work was found.

Others who had jobs, such as 20 families that relocated here with Phoenix Color Corp., felt culturally isolated and craved a sense of community with Spanish-speaking people like themselves.

Pulido, who got a job at Phoenix Color after coming here, works 12 hours a day, five days a week. He said he found himself taking people into his home, giving them shelter and food. The need for a greater base of support for these people was clear.

The Nazarene church has long served as a hub for the Latin community in the Hagerstown area. English and citizenship classes are offered there, for example.

Latin Center board secretary Mercedes Lorduy said the group is looking for another location for the center.

"We don't want it to be religion-oriented," she said. "Some have said they would rather have a place outside the church."

The board invites members of the Latin community to come to a "town meeting" at the Funkstown Fire Co. social hall at 3 p.m. on Oct. 3. "We're going to brainstorm," Lorduy said.

Lorduy said the board is seeking nonprofit status for the center. She said the board will rent until they can build or buy a permanent home.

"It will be a center of unity where all cultures will blend," Lorduy said. "Even though the language is the same, our cultures are very different."

Pulido and Lorduy said English and citizenship classes will be shifted to the center, where guidance for families also will be offered. It also will be a place to gather and socialize. Eventually, they hope the center will host an annual Latin festival.

Lorduy came to the Hagerstown area in October with her husband, Sgt. Eduard Lorduy, who is in the military. Her husband is from Colombia, as is her mother. Her father came from Peru. The couple have two children, Charlise and Erick.

Lorduy has a degree in social science and works with the Young Fathers Program at the Washington County Department of Social Services.

She said cultural isolation is one of the problems faced by Spanish-speaking people here. That is aggravated by the fact there is very little bilingual literature, she said.

Lorduy has translated victim assistance program literature for Montgomery County, and begun a drive to get Washington County Department of Social Service literature translated.

She said she hopes that through the Latin Center, Spanish-speaking people can help educate local residents about their culture.

"I'm very proud of who I am," she said. "I was taught by my parents to be proud of who I am, and to help those around me."

"There is such a bad image of Spanish immigrants," Lorduy said. "It's a myth. What we represent are hard workers."

Pulido said 90 percent of the Spanish-speaking people who came to Hagerstown with Phoenix Color now own their own homes, and have become U.S. citizens.

For information on the Latin Center, call Lorduy at 301-766-9297 or Pulido at 301-745-4748.

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