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PUEBLO Y SALUD SEEKS TO EMPOWER LATINOS.

Byline: ALEJANDRO GUZMAN Valley News Writer

Pueblo Y Salud Inc. has been working to improve the quality of life for Latino communities since 1991 in the areas of education, civic participation and culture.

Based in San Fernando with new offices in Palmdale, Pueblo Y Salud Inc. started off as an organization to treat alcohol abuse in the Latino community, said Executive Director Xavier Flores.

Since then, new goals have appeared on its agenda. One in particular aims to boost cultural exchanges among Latinos. Flores said one example of this is teaching people to create their own musical instrument and then encourage them to research the origins of the instrument.

Flores gives credit to Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural, a cafe in Sylmar known for its bookstore, art gallery and as a gathering place for thinking minds. He said this is the kind of congregation Pueblo Y Salud had in mind.

Education is another area Flores considers high-priority for Pueblo Y Salud, which has plans to open a charter school in San Fernando or somewhere in the Northeast Valley.

``Right now, (we're) looking at a site in San Fernando (that will be) geared toward grades K-5 (with a) total of 420 students,'' Flores said.

He said a dual-immersion program will teach kids half the time in English and half in Spanish.

Maria Calleros, project coordinator for Pueblo Y Salud, said its most recent computer literacy course -- taught to mostly women between the ages of 30 and 40 -- had good results.

Calleros said course instructor Estee Ayala taught people how to open e-mail accounts and use Microsoft Excel to keep track of budgets. Because some people had never used a computer, Ayala showed them how to turn them on.

The class started in early November and ended in mid-February. There were three classes with about 38 participants.

Calleros said if enough money is available, another course could start in two to three months with Ayala as a returning instructor.

An old issue still sits high on Pueblo Y Salud's to-do list: alcohol. ``Plenty of data demonstrates we (Latinos) consume more alcohol than the general population,'' Flores said.

While not all Latinos drink, those who do, do so in larger quantities, he said.

``In the U.S., the norm tends to be 1-2 drinks in the evening, but not a 24-pack or 12-pack every weekend,'' Flores said.

He said the more alcohol in a community, the more problems occur, which is especially damaging in an impoverished area. As a result, there is lack of education and unemployment, leaving people in a struggle to climb out of poverty.

Although Flores believes there is a good reason for Cinco de Mayo to be celebrated in the U.S., he said it is unfortunate that liquor lobbyists have ``bastardized'' the holiday.

``They have taken it as their own child for the purpose of selling their own product,'' Flores said. ``They care about making money.''

The Cesar E. Chavez Day Celebration, held in the cities of Los Angeles and San Fernando, has personal meaning to Flores. He believes the late labor leader was an individual truly worthy of being a hero for everybody, especially the youth.

``I believe we all seek redemption, and heroes provide that for us all,'' Flores said. ``(He had) no formal education and (was) still able to change the world.''

Pueblo Y Salud is a founding member of the Cesar E. Chavez Commemorative Committee, which organizes and promotes the annual event.

Flores wants youths to know that if Chavez was capable of bringing dignity to the lowliest of work places, then they should not use the excuse that they could not graduate from high school.

``Education is paramount,'' Flores said. ``But the other message is, `If you couldn't get it, don't give up.'''

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Photo:

Steven Cortez, former Pueblo Y Salud project coordinator, educates children at a health fair about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco.
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Title Annotation:Valley News
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 9, 2006
Words:654
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