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Pursuing opportunity: Reno

The Pepper Tree is an award winning small business [on Wells Avenue] featuring southwest gifts and clothing. And owner Rose Ann Capriotti is the queen of customer service here.

Rose Ann Capriotti photoRose Ann Capriotti: "I have shipments coming in tomorrow, and this shop can change completely in a couple of days. By the way, 65% of what you see is made here in Reno."

Rose Ann immigrated from Sonora, Mexico when she was just a child, and became a citizen with her parents more than 50 years ago. And as a retired social worker she still focuses on helping others.

Rose Ann Capriotti: "Sometimes I feel there's just not enough assistance for the Hispanic population. I have helped them with driver's licenses, with permits, and so on."

Because of her experience building her own business and dealing with government agencies, many other business owners look to her as a sort of unofficial mayor of [Wells] Avenue. At meetings like this one she keeps tabs on proposed development along the Avenue.

Rose Ann Capriotti: "That little bit of advertising we did has been absolutely wonderful!"

And here, other family-business owners have become like a family to Rose Ann.

Rose Ann Capriotti photoRose Ann Capriotti: "It is my family. I try to take care of them as much as I can. Sometimes when I get out, like the Hispanic businesses, especially now that it's getting a little bit warmer, the tradition is that they do not close until 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. Our American tradition is we close at 5:30 or 6 o'clock. So sometimes after I get out of work, I'll go to different businesses and see if they need any help, are they doing okay?"

Rose Ann Capriotti: "How's everything? How's business going? Okay?"

Juana and Thomas Gomez run a party supply store about a block from the Pepper Tree. And they've built up a good bank of supplies and customers over the years. Their son Edwin helps out making deliveries and printing t-shirts. And everyone watches out for 3-year old twins Veronica and Bernice and 2-year old baby Bridget. Even though Juana and Thomas have been here 20 years, they remember their border crossing as if it was yesterday.

Juana Gomez photoJuana Gomez: "We had to walk so many miles, two, three days in the desert, with no water, no food, no blankets, anything."

But once here Juana and Thomas were able to take advantage of amnesty programs. These days security is tighter, quotas are stricter, and fees are much higher for those looking for permanent residency.

Juana Gomez: "The office to help people with the papers they charge a lot of money -- 350-400 dollars to fill out an application for immigration and sometimes the people just don't have enough to pay."

Thomas Gomez photoThomas Gomez: "There is not enough communication between Immigration and the Hispanic community."

There is a lot of paperwork involved in doing anything through immigration, and all of the forms are printed only in English. One regional official told me that according to federal law if the forms were made available in Spanish they'd also have to be made available in German, French, Chinese, East Hungarian and a host of other languages. So a lot of Hispanic people find themselves turning to others for help in filling out the forms. Sometimes, they turn to full-fledged attorneys, and sometimes they turn to notarios.

Martha Martinez runs a combination travel agency and notary service on Wells Avenue.

Martha Martinez photoMartha Martinez: "I'm a public notary. I do all kinds of translations, power of attorney, all the immigration forms. We do letters to take children out of the US and we're beginning to do divorces. INS is very hard, they are very demanding. They want everything in a certain order, and sometimes, even if you have everything in order, they could still say no when you want something else."

And immigration is a big part of this law office across town too.

Alan Hutchinson photoAlan Hutchinson: "Nationwide, we know it's 8 million undocumented aliens in the Unites States. Probably half of those are from Mexico. Right now, there is a great delay at the INS because they have to check all these names against a new security database, and as I understand it, many of the computers are not capable of doing this and in some cases the personnel are not capable of doing it, so the backlog is getting even bigger. I tell them in Spanish, they need pacienca, patience, tranquilidad, they have to be tranquil and avoid problems with the police because that will lead to deportation, and esperanza, which is hope."

Rose Ann Capriotti: "We need more services, we need more translators, we need -- oh, there is so much."

Juana Gomez: "They're coming to work hard, you know, and make a better life for his family. I know that.

Rose Ann Capriotti: "We are here to stay, and I know that I am doing everything in my power to help as many people as I can."


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