Originally Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2009, 12:42 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 12, 2009, 12:46 pm
East Moline man wants to bridge the culture gap
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Anthony Watt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Like many things in his life, being a writer started with a complaint.
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Photo: Gary Krambeck|
Greg Aguilar stands in front of a Latino-themed mural at the corner of 5th Street and 4th Avenue in Moline.
"I was complaining to myself and my family that the media didn't really cover Latinos and there are so many of us," Greg Aguilar, 28, said of the time just before he really began writing.
Not long after, he saw an advertisement in The Dispatch for a writer wanting to cover Hispanic issues.
He got the job, and it has been his for about three years now.
"I never considered myself a writer," Mr. Aguilar, of East Moline, said. "It just kind of happened."
When he was child, his parents took him to many church and neighborhood social functions, exposing him to people and their tales and grumblings. That started something, too.
"Everywhere we went, someone had story -- or a complaint," Mr. Aguilar said. "It made me realize people had a lot to say, but often no one hears them."
When he first got out of college, the immigration issue was a very hot topic. Again there were complaints. "I heard a lot of things about illegals ruining the country." Mr. Aguilar said. It caused him to look for a way to get involved. He joined several groups, but they did not fit right. Then came the Day Without Immigrants marches in 2006.
The movement was meant to draw attention to the problems of those in America illegally and to protest proposals to make entering the country illegally a felony. Mr. Aguilar helped organize the local march, which ended up being the only bi-state march and drew about 3,000 people, he said.
It is one of the things of which he is most proud.
He also helps organize other cultural events, is involved with the fledgling Greater Quad-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is involved with St. Anne's Catholic Church in East Moline.
His goal with the writing and the other actions? He wants the Quad-Cities to celebrate its diversity. And he wants to educate the general populace about Hispanics, and Hispanics about themselves.
"I like to inspire. I love stories of triumph. I like religious topics, and I like to challenge people's ideas," he said.
Mr. Aguilar said he writes about social issues, religious issues, minority issues and the quirks of Latino culture and tries to reveal the kernel of truth that grows a stereotype. For example, if there are always 10 cars in a Hispanic's driveway, it's because the whole family is there -- grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, being together as a group.
Breaking down stereotypes is key, he said, because it is important for people to accept, and not judge. If people want to feel a certain way about an issue, or a people, then they should know as much about them as possible before they make their decision.
He also wants the Hispanic community to feel better about itself, look beyond the stereotypes placed on it.
"When I was growing up, I was embarrassed at being different. I felt weird eating burritos at lunch instead of sandwiches." He wants young Hispanics to know they don't have to feel that way. "This is our culture, and it's cool," Mr. Aguilar said.
Alvaro Macias, who handles sales and marketing for the English/Spanish newspaper Hola! America, said Mr. Aguilar does a great job shining light on Hispanic culture.
"He's very motivated," said Mr. Macias, who has known Mr. Aguilar off and on since high school. "He's confident, he's very easy to get along with. He's a hard worker."
He also helps people see the common ground between groups, Mr. Macias said. "We might be a little different, but we have a lot a similarities."
Margie Mejia-Caraballo, a Rock Island alderman, has known Mr. Aguilar since childhood. She said his biggest challenge is convincing people to bridge the gap between cultures and to convince them that it needs to be bridged -- "getting people to understand that it has to be done and getting people to be a part of that," she said.
But, she said, Mr. Aguilar gets involved when a lot of people would be spectators.
"He is determined. Always looking for the justice in situations," she said. Greg Aguilar Age: 28
Home: East Moline
Marital status: "Single and loving it."
Hobbies: Playing guitar and singing. Research on Latino issues and history.
Likes: Live music, particularly Mexican music, rock and hip hop. "And country. I love country. Country is actually Mexican music in English. The two types of music share themes: love, pain, joy."
Education: United Township High School and University of Iowa
Job: Community development coordinator for Ascentra Credit Union