NJ Bolivian Organization Turns 14 Amid Deportation Fears

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Cases such as Viviana Zavala’s make supporting community organizations worthwhile. A low-income woman who was caught by immigration and needed to hire a lawyer, she was able to resolve her legal problems thanks to organizations formed by her fellow Bolivians, who collected money to pay for her legal representation.

Marlene Terán, a resident of Kearny, in Hudson County, confirmed this, as the Centro de Residentes Bolivianos de Nueva Jersey (Bolivian Center of Residents in the State of New Jersey), of which she is the president, celebrated the 14th anniversary of its founding.

“We held a kermis [bazaar] alongside other Bolivian organizations to raise funds and we hired a criminal lawyer and an immigration lawyer, because the lady had two cases,” said Terán. “She was held in a detention center for about five months, and nobody knew about it. After the third month, they contacted us, and we got things moving in one month. Now, thank God, she is free and in the process of obtaining her papers.”

Victoria Calero, a Bolivia native living in Hackensack, said that more than $5,000 was collected for her compatriot. “We Latinos need to be united to help our own. It is the only way that the community will move forward,” she added.

The center just celebrated its 14 years of existence in a gala held in Clifton. One of its founders, Luis Mendoza, took the opportunity to recall that the organization was created to get him out of a problem.

Mendoza said that he was working at the New York newspaper La Estrella Andina, where he says he was not getting paid for his articles and the distribution work he carried out. When he began to collaborate with a different news outlet, he says, the owner of La Estrella Andina threatened him.

“I spent six months under police protection. No one would listen to me – not even the consulate – until we made a pledge at my compatriot Rigoberto Aranda’s home in New Jersey in August 2003 that we would start an organization to defend other Bolivians who had problems,” said Mendoza. “On Nov. 29 of the same year, we met at the home of José Carmargo, our first president, and wrote the organization’s birth certificate.”

Today, the center performs additional activities, such as organizing the Bolivian parade in New Jersey, and aims to show off the beauty of Bolivian folklore and the country’s gastronomy. They have also taken it upon themselves to pass the cultural legacy of the Andean nation to the new generations so they can spread it to their own families, neighborhoods and schools.

Current President Marlene Brigitte Terán – who was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and arrived in the United States in 1999 – said she was grateful for the support of her community, which she considers “very generous” and “quite united.”

She said that the demographic data is not clear but seems to indicate that Bolivians started settling in New Jersey 40 years ago and that some 4,000 or 5,000 of them currently live in the Garden State. Most of them came from the cities of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.

Bolivians are spread across a number of cities. People who came from La Paz are living in Jersey City, those from Cochabamba are in West Orange, and “Cambas” – a nickname for people from Santa Cruz – settled in Clifton.

Other Bolivian organizations based in the Garden State are the Señoras Voluntarias Niño Manuelito, Fraternidad Morenada Central New Jersey, Fraternidad Morenada Central New York, Fraternidad Morenada Señorial New Jersey, Fraternidad Morenada Elite Boliviana Americana, Fraternidad Diablada Boliviana, Fraternidad Mi Llajta of New Jersey, Fraternidad Tinkus San Simón New Jersey, Fraternidad Caporales San Simón USA New Jersey, Fraternidad Caporales Universitarios San Simón New York, Fraternidad Negritos Sagrado Corazón de Jesús and the Kalawawa Organization.

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