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Tuesday December 23, 2014

Diversity More Than a Black and White Issue

Posted on: August 1st, 2014

Israel Martinez Speaks on Multi-Cultural Businesses in Mississippi

In Mississippi, the issue of diversity is no longer a black and white issue. That is one thing that Mexican business-owner Israel Martinez proves.

Israel Martinez – Business Owner

At 28-years-old, Martinez is the owner of a computer service and a language school that teaches Spanish and English to the local and immigrant community. Martinez started both businesses because he saw the need for them in his community.

Even though being his own boss brings its own set of challenges, Martinez enjoys the freedom that being an entrepreneur has.

“There are many great benefits in working for yourself,” Martinez said. “You have the freedom to make decisions. You aren’t working under somebody, and if you fail it is your responsibility.”

Martinez represents the epitome of the American Dream. Although he has attained a level of success now, that hasn’t always been the case.

“I am originally from Mexico,” Martinez stated. “I came to the states when I was 17-years old with my family and I worked for two businesses before I started my own company.”
Martinez spent the formative years of his life in Veracruz, Mexico. He described Mexico as a mix-up of situations. There were some cities that were safe and other cities that were not.

“There are areas [in Veracruz] that are extremely dangerous and other areas that are peaceful and beautiful and it is a good life,” Martinez said. “Where I grew up, there was no major crime or things like that, but lately we are having those situations and several areas are dangerous.”

Upon coming to the United States at 17, Martinez found that there were more opportunities

“There are more opportunities here, particularly in business,” Martinez stated. “The corruption is also different here than in other places. There is more security and people have a better income and they can purchase [my] products and services.”
Even though he was not raised in America, he has similar traits to other successful business people, proving that success isn’t relegated to one specific culture.
“I have confidence and I work towards my goals without giving up,” Martinez said. “I also work with different people and learn from them. I have several friends who are business owners and they provide me with advice. I look at different success stories and learn from them.”

In his experience in Mississippi, Martinez has experienced the subject of diversity being talked about in terms of black and white.

“I love Mississippi and I am a positive person, ”Martinez started. “But everybody knows that Mississippi is black and white on many things including the fact that we talk diversity in Mississippi in terms of black and white.”

Martinez stated that he saw more separation when he first arrived around 2005, but as time went on he began to see more cultures in Mississippi such as Asians and Hispanics.

“It’s changing,” Martinez said of diversity in Mississippi. “But it’s not everywhere. When we go to the rural areas, it is still black and white.”

He wants to bring awareness to the fact that there are more people here that can’t be fit into specific categories. Martinez is the Vice President of Laba Link, the Latin American Business Association.

According to the website, Laba Link is “is the newest and most active, culturally-diverse organization that brings people and businesses together.”

“We created [Laba Link] because we saw the need for an association,” Martinez said. “Whenever anyone comes to the United States and they want to start a business, people have no idea about the legal steps. So we gather with several business owners and help each other with our experience and help the new people with their ventures.”

In addition to meetings, Laba Link also host several events for professionals to network, have fun, and experience different cultures.

“We have a rich culture and we did not have events or festivals where we could enjoy and attend and have some fun time,” Martinez said. “We mentioned the goals and came up with the Latin Fest which is a Latin Festival.”

With the monies that they raise from the Latin Festival, Laba Link plans to hire an Executive Director of Laba Link and open up an office that performs the same functions that a chamber of commerce does.

Laba Link not only helps Latin American business owners, however they are also changing attitudes about race and ethnicity in their community.

“We are a bridge,” Martinez stated. “Local businesses want to do business with the immigrants. When we work in groups we are more powerful and can do better things than just working by ourselves.”

Martinez anticipates a future where it will be a common thing to see different races and ethnicities in public and in restaurants.



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