"There's a perception that Latinos don't want to learn English, but that's not true," said Maria Carrion-Kozak, of Silt, who has worked as an ESL teacher at Rifle High School and teaches Spanish classes at Colorado Mountain College.
"A lot of the ESL classes are full.And these people work all day - sometimes 10-12 hours - and don't have time to go to an ESL class.Another problem is the lack of education in their own language.It makes it difficult to learn a new language."Carrion-Kozak
is a native of Venezuela and moved to the United States in 1980 to attend college in Boston."I came over to go to college and learn English," she
said."But I had a really good life before moving here.I was a music teacher and I was making good money."She
eventually married an Anglo and moved to Denver, but the marriage did not work out.Having vacationed in the Roaring Fork Valley, where she
was reminded of her
home country by the mountains and friendly people, she
decided to move here with her
two children."In 1990, there was already an influx of people from Mexico moving in who didn't speak English," Carrion-Kozak
said."I realized that there was a big need to teach Anglos about the Latin American culture."After a stint with the Aspen Police Department, she started teaching Spanish at CMC in Glenwood Springs.
"It's always been my philosophy that for foreign language classes, a native speaker is the best - they can teach the language and the culture," Carrion-Kozak
said."I think a lot of people in this valley are learning the importance of learning another language."Many Latino families still speak their native tongue at home."The parents will still speak Spanish," Carrion-Kozak
Those include food, values, the way the family is structured and daily living principles, Carrion-Kozak
said."Americans are so busy," she
said."Latinos are more laid back.They work to be able to live - not live to work."The Latin culture is also a lot more demonstrative in the way they communicate - with hand gestures, hugs and kisses, she
said."We talk very up close and we touch," Carrion-Kozak
said with a laugh."We're louder."Latino families typically have strong family ties and religious beliefs."A family gathering includes lots of food and dancing for the grown-ups, teenagers and the kids," Carrion-Kozak
"A lot come here because of the work opportunity," Carrion-Kozak
said."Most Latinos are not planning to stay, but if things don't get better in their country, they do stay.And even though the jobs (here) may be paying poorly, it's better than what they could get at home."Colorado is an attractive location to Latinos, not only because of the close proximity to the border, but because the mountainous terrain and the climate remind them of home.Now re-married and with two more children, Carrion-Kozak
is a permanent resident of the U.S., but still misses her
country."I miss my Latino culture," she
said, wiping away a tear.