As president of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce; founder of the Hispanic Marketing Group; member of the Culture Shift Team; a board member for Ambassadors of Conexión Américas, the Metropolitan Government Human Relations Commission and Advisors of VIVA Broadway; committee member for TPAC; recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award; founding partner of Cayalyst Brands Group; partner in the creation of Diversity Brands, LLC; and mother to Esteban, an award-winning filmmaker, it comes as no surprise that we find Marcela Gomez an inspiring member of the Nashville community. Through her work in the Latino community and success in assisting Nashville’s Latino entrepreneurs and business owners, Marcela is propelling the city’s diversity. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Marcela spent her high school years in Charlotte, NC, before returning to Colombia for college. In 1992, she made her way back to the states and landed in Nashville in 1994. “I have lived in Nashville for more than 20 years, but I will always be from Colombia,” she tells us. “I love my country.”
We were first introduced to Marcela during her hilarious, empowering story read during Listen To Your Mother‘s inaugural event. As a Latina and member of a large family, her penchant for storytelling was as apparent then as it was when we sat down with her for coffee. We are elated to introduce you to Marcela Gomez, today’s FACE of Nashville, and allow you to experience her captivating personality for yourself.
As the founder of the Hispanic Marketing Group, you strive to help companies reach the Latino community. What are some ways you try to foster this connection?
One of the main things that I do is actually the work of a consultant. I meet with clients and help them understand who is the Latino market, what are the differences between the demographic, why are we here, what are the culture cues for the different groups and what is the best language to use. The part that fascinates me about my work is that consulting with clients and opening their eyes to communicate, reach, build a relationship with this group of people that seems so different from who they are — but really we are not. We are all humans.
It is looking at the cultural cues more importantly than the language. Beyond the translation of the language is the culture. I help them build and create trust over time. Apart from that, we create communication plans and marketing plans for clients. Media buy, radio products — it depends on what the client needs after that consulting work.
How has the Latino community grown since you arrived in 1994?
When I moved here, there were very few Latinos. The community was predominately people working for corporate America and migrant workers. In the year 2000 or 2002, we began to see a lot of families moving into the city. Not only coming from Latin America, but coming from other states as well. Since then, our community has grown so much. I truly believe there is a point a couple of years ago I knew every Colombian in Nashville, and now I don’t. I wonder, where did all of these people come from?
The last two mayors (Mayor Karl Dean and Mayor Megan Berry) are intentional about serving not only the Latinos but the diverse markets and communities in the city. We are beginning to build more and more opportunities. The good thing about Nashville is that there is a spirit of collaboration that has always existed.
The biggest challenge is how do we communicate the importance of having people work for you who reflect your community. Why is there still a question whether we should build relationships with Latinos, whether we should hire people who speak Spanish, whether we should be a diverse community? Why is that a question? Don’t the numbers show it nationwide?
You are the producer/director (and a member of the inaugural cast) of Listen to Your Mother. Can you tell us a bit about this event?
I am one of the producers and directors this year, and I started as a cast member in the inaugural Nashville show. First of all, it was an amazing experience to take a story of my life that had been told by my son and now I felt strong enough to take ownership. It empowers people when you open up and tell something. I was able to meet women I would have never met otherwise. I am a Latina who lives in The Gulch, and I would have never met some of these ladies who live in Brentwood. So when the opportunity came for this year, I said I want to be a part of it.
This year, we have put together a roller coaster of emotions, and I am very proud to say that two of the cast members are young Latina women. Ultimately, that is what I bring to it: to give this other community an open door and to let them know, I did it and it was okay. You should do it too.
Listen to Your Mother‘s main mission is to give motherhood a microphone. By motherhood, it doesn’t mean you have to be a mother. It is the topic, the theme, the overall umbrella. Of course, each local show partners with a nonprofit organization that they want to serve, and this year, 10 percent of our ticket sales will go to Safe Haven.
Who has been your biggest mentor in life, work or both, and why?
My mother. My mother, who doesn’t let me cry. She is the woman who I call crying, and she says, “Why are you crying? Don’t cry.” She is the first person I called when I got laid off and her reply was, “Praise God. Now let’s see what door he has opened for you.” If you are going to have a pity party, don’t call my mother.
What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?
My mother told me, “Take care of yourself first.” You don’t have to be a parent to take that advice. I had 365 days with Esteban as a single mother, except the times he would travel to Colombia, but I made sure I had my own life and created my own identity outside of being his mother. So when he moved to New York, although it is painful to have your child move away, I wasn’t devastated, and my life did not end.
What is your favorite movie?
I love films, and I love going to the movies. When my son won his award in London, a reporter asked him, “What made you a filmmaker?” I have never even asked him that. He said it started when I took him to the movies every weekend to watch three or four movies. My favorite movie is Gone With the Wind. I was 15 years old when I saw it for the first time, and I never forgot Scarlett O’Hara.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Hummus, travel and dancing
Thank you, Marcela. And thank you to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs of Marcela. See more of her work at ashleyhylbert.com.
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