Cambio de Colores 2005

Latinos in Missouri:
Connecting Research to Policy and Practice
Hoy y Mañana

Reynolds Alumni Center, University of Missouri-Columbia,
March 30, 31 & April 1st, 2005

Centros Latinos: Understanding the Community-based Organizations that Serve Missouri Immigrant Populations

Theme: Youth, Families and Communities

Moderator: Stephen Jeanetta, State Specialist, Community Development, University of Missouri Extension


  • Valentina Mensa, Executive Director, Centro Latino of Milan, Missouri
  • Carrie Tyler, Executive Director, Centro Latino de Apoyo, Recursos, y Oportunidades (CLARO) of Marshall, Missouri
  • Enrique Muruato, Centro Latino of the Lake of the Ozarks
  • Eduardo Crespi, Director & Health Coordinator, Centro Latino de Salud, Educación y Cultura, Columbia, Missouri

Centros Latinos are Latino community centers that provide information, services and assistance in the areas of education, law, health and more. There are four Centro Latinos in Missouri, located in Milan, Marshall, Lake of the Ozarks, and Columbia. The directors presented at the Cambio de Colores Conference on Thursday, March 31.

Valentina Mensa, who is originally from Argentina, started the Milan program 10 years ago, but the center began in 2001. The Milan center receives some volunteering from students at Truman State University but is always looking for more volunteers. They help with translating and interpreting, with ESL classes and provide programs for prenatal care. Other programs include teaching about the law, after-school programs and summer programs for boys and girls.

Carrie Tyler is the director of the Marshall center. It became incorporated in 2002, but opened Feb. 2, 2003. Latinos there face language barriers, transportation conflicts and trouble with people’s immigration status. They have received the NAACP award for community service. They participate in community events such as Miss Independencia and the homecoming parade. OSHA in the U.S Department of Labor has a partnership with the Marshall center because there is the ConAgra plant, the Cargill plant, and the new ethanol plants, where many Latinos are employed. OSHA can be called to do inspections and listen to employee complaints.         

Enrique Muruato is the director of the Lake of the Ozarks center, which covers places from Eldon, California, Camdenton and Jefferson City to Lebanon. Their goal is to locate and rent a place for the actual center. Until then, Latinos are being invited to participate in various activities such as a cultural fair or a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Eduardo Crespi, the director of the Columbia location, wrapped up the presentation by making a call for everyone to support their centers by volunteering and organizing. He made an argument for the centers to receive funding and asked that anyone who is performing any research to contact the directors. He gave an example from Nebraska, where a researcher partnered with a center to develop a grant, through which the center gained funding.

Anyone can start a Centro Latino and there are many areas in Missouri where Centros are still needed according to Crespi. Those interested can contact any of the directors for direction.

Day 2, Thursday March 31. Breakout Sessions 11AM, Breakout 5.

By Alex Rampy

By Alex Rampy

This conference report contributed by

Mid-Missouri bilingual newspaper.