Aleman, 1st Latino elected in the state, takes the head of HICA

Carlos Aleman traveled all over the United States, but found a home in Homewood.

“Homewood is special,” said Aleman. “It provides a diverse community. “

Last year, this diverse community made Aleman the first Latino elected to a public office in the state of Alabama when they selected him to serve as a member of the Ward 2 council, and now , he will be able to continue to focus on the Hispanic population of Alabama as the CEO of HICA, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama.

Aleman recently served as Deputy Director of the organization and will assume the role of CEO on January 1, 2022, following the retirement of Isabel Rubio, founder and current leader of the organization.

“It’s an honor to follow in her footsteps and build the foundation she established,” said Aleman.

Aleman immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was young due to the civil war in their home country of Nicaragua in 1982. He first lived in San Francisco and grew up there before moving to Michigan to earn his doctorate from Michigan State University. A stop in Atlanta was then followed by his move to join the teaching staff at Samford University, where he taught from 2013 to 2018. It was during his time in Samford that Aleman learned that Alabama was not. not always respond to less than ideal stereotypes. placed on it.

“There is the national perception, then there is the reality,” Aleman said.

At HICA, Aleman said the main goal is to help new immigrants, as well as existing families, grow and prosper. The group now has 25 full-time employees, covers six counties and operates on a budget of $ 2.5 million, Aleman said.

The organization offers a variety of different programs, including advocacy for victims’ rights, cultural training, access to languages, help with immigration and citizenship issues, and help people with a college education, Aleman said. HICA also helps people register to vote and provides voter guides in Spanish, while advocating for different policies.

The “engine” of HICA, said Aleman, is the Community Economic Development Program, where HICA will help people file their taxes and start a business with microcredit programs that provide capital. About 300 people have received their business licenses through the program, he said, and HICA has provided around $ 100,000 to 37 entrepreneurs since the program began, and no one has missed a payment on their loan.

As Deputy Director, Aleman was in charge of internal programs and operations, but now he will serve as the public face of HICA and oversee all aspects of the organization.

“We have the opportunity to continue to grow,” said Aleman. “How do we continue to lift people out of poverty and into prosperity? “

Aleman said he hopes to see HICA work for an increase in legislative policies that improve lives “for all Alabamians” and said he wants to continue breaking down barriers for Hispanic citizens.

To follow in Rubio’s footsteps is to follow a “heritage that is rare,” said Aleman. Rubio has been a mentor, friend and colleague of Aleman, and he said she has had a huge impact throughout Alabama by raising issues in the community. The founder of HICA has been a “powerful force for good” in the state, he said.

Rubio said she couldn’t think of anyone better than Aleman to be HICA’s next CEO.

“He lived through the immigrant experience,” said Rubio. “For three and a half years he’s been here and worked side by side.

Rubio has said she will take on an advisory role at the end of the year, and it’s an important time to start taking a step back and let Aleman grow in the role.

Reflecting on her more than 20 years as the head of the organization, Rubio said she is very grateful to the people she has met.

“People made this job so amazing,” said Rubio. “Birmingham and Alabama have embraced us and embraced change. “

Aleman is a visible reminder of one of those changes, as the first Latino elected to public office. Although he is proud to be the first, he said it is more important that he is not the last.

“It’s a good thing we’re getting to a place where people see themselves represented,” Aleman said. “Local politics is where change can happen.”

Homewood is unique, especially compared to other mountain towns, Aleman said, in its diversity, especially in his home in West Homewood, which he and his wife chose for a reason. Their children who attend Hall Kent Elementary School will allow them to interact with people from all walks of life, he said.

Aleman has said he hopes to “build something special” at Homewood and hopes to represent those who care.

” It’s difficult ; you have to represent a diverse community, ”Aleman said of the city council. “People are really dedicated and really care about Homewood. “

Serving on the board also allows Aleman to learn how to work to achieve consensus, as a board member cannot hope to achieve their plans on their own, he said.

Growing up in San Francisco, Aleman said he saw that the Hispanic population had the “infrastructure” that HICA helped create in Alabama, with access to so many resources to improve their quality of life. This helped ensure that these people could achieve what they wanted to accomplish.

As one of those people who has achieved a lot in his life, Aleman said he hopes to use HICA to show what can happen when people have the opportunity to improve their lives.

“I don’t like to think of myself as the exception,” said Aleman. “I am an example.”

About Harold Shirley

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