By Kristen Aguirre
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — New census data shows North Carolina’s Latinx population is increasing.
Here in the mountains, one local nonprofit organization is hoping to make them feel at home.
The community might recognize the name Hola Carolina from the festivals it puts on throughout the year here in the mountains — or from its monthly magazine.
“We knew our mission was more than just a magazine; we knew we could do more than just that,” said Adrianna Chavela, the founder of Hola Carolina and this week’s News 13 Person of the Week.
But before all that, it was just a dream for Chavela.
“I knew we needed to uplift the Latino community in Western North Carolina,” Chavela said. “There was so much bad news about us and how we immigrate and things like that. I felt we needed to tell the truth and the hard workers that we are and uplift our community.” Chavela started with $200 and grew it to annual cultural events and a monthly publication in Spanish with thousands of followers — and now a nonprofit.
“We were able to grow our numbers 20,000 to 50,000 on social media,” Chavela said. “We knew then the need for communication in Spanish in Western North Carolina was so much needed.”
It was much needed for people like Belem Solano.
“Whenever we come here, we’re one country,” Solano said of the nonprofit.
An immigrant from Mexico, Solano found comfort in Hola Carolina.
“It’s definitely a connection right away,” she said.
A home away from home.
“It feels like home,” Solano said.
Hola Carolina’s cultural center is actually a house.
“We want everybody to feel welcomed; we want everybody to feel like a home,” Chavela said. “Like a safe space.”
“I think trust is very important because us as Latinos and being in this community and not seeing a lot of Latinos, building that relationship — that trust is hard,” Israel Oliveras said.
Oliveras is a partner with Hola Carolina. He has seen firsthand how the community has grown to lean on Hola Carolina.
“I’m sure people feel safe in this place,” he said of the cultural center.
That’s because of Adriana.
“She’s really friendly, she’s always ready to help,” Solano said.
“She’s just so nice to everybody,” Oliveras added.
Too nice — and too humble — to accept any credit for her work.
“I just want to be a friend,” Chavela said. “I want to be a good neighbor, a good part of the community.” A good person.
“I want to make everybody to feel like home.” Chavela said.
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