Descubre Asheville's Luis Carlos Serapio on Latino Culture and Community

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Descubre Asheville's Luis Carlos Serapio on Latino Culture and Community

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Luis Carlos Serapio. Credit: Renato Rotolo

If you want information on all things Asheville, there's a new website with its finger on the pulse of what's hip and happening. But there's a twist: You can read this site's content in both Spanish and English. DescubreAsheville.com aims to be the "First Spanish Tourist Directory in Asheville," according to their website. The site provides information on the sights, sounds, and flavors of Asheville for what Luis Carlos Serapio, founder, considers an as-yet untapped audience: Latino and Hispanic tourists. 

"All blogs on Descubre Asheville are currently published in Spanish and English," says Serapio. "We want to be inclusive, and there’s nobody else that has done this here." 

The website launched in July of last year, and since then Serapio has brought on a core group of bloggers, all of whom identify as Hispanic or Latino. "The team we’re putting together has been rooted in Asheville for many years," he says, "so in a way we’re already incorporated into the city. Lots of people see us working in and living in town, but they don't talk to us about community besides asking, 'Where's a good Mexican restaurant?'"

For Serapio, the need for more representation comes down to the numbers. There are around 51 million people of Hispanic/Latino descent in the United States, and the Republican party boasted three bilingual candidates in the last primary—Jed Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Univision, the Spanish-language network, has the highest news ratings of all U.S. news networks, including heavy hitters like ABC and CBS. And while national networks and advertisers, from Coca Cola to Heineken, whose Spanish-speaking "Most Interesting Man in the World" retains a position as one of the most recognizable marketing campaigns ever, see the potential of this large market, things might catch on more slowly at a local level. 

Serapio hopes to harness the power of a Latino audience, and ultimately to expand his offerings to all audiences, by highlighting the commonalities shared between cultural groups in town. "The goal is to create a bridge," he notes. "I want to emphasize the things we have in common. Let’s say beer, for example. We’re Beer City USA, and big beer brands like Miller Genuine Draft and Budweiser have been sponsors of the Mexican soccer team when they play the US, because they know the ad revenue they could generate working with the team.

"Part of our platform is economics," he continues. "Another is social—that's about creating the bridge. We can all talk about having a great time at the Wedge, or at Highland Brewing, or wherever." 

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But Descubre Asheville doesn't stop at entertainment. "We can also talk about things like that are more political," says Serapio. "Like what happened in Charlottesville. It’s got to be a combination of all of those subjects. I don’t expect it to be all that political, but we’re not going to steer away from our responsibility to create awareness. We want to be proactive and invite people to join us, or at least to open themselves to realize that something can be done about inclusion in a town that wants to be progressive."

The topic is on everyone's minds as events at the national level have taken a darker turn for immigrants and people of color. Yesterday, Trump made the decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program that protected close to 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation. In the midst of this sociopolitical climate, Descubre Asheville will provide an important perspective and voice. One example of this: The website recently launched its #amigos828 series, which interviews people in the community about how to make Asheville more inclusive and welcoming.

Another way in which the site is taking a progressive stance is its scholarship program, currently in the works. Funded through ad revenue, the scholarship will be called "Descubre Tu Potencial" (Discover Your Potential), and will be awarded to a student for A-B Tech's culinary program or for a program that will train interpreters or translators. The scholarship, which will be open to Hispanic/Latino, African-American, and LGBTQ youth, will begin accepting applications in January of 2018. The website also currently works with Word on the Street, a bilingual online magazine from the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center, offering 40% of ad sales to support the project.

"When HB2 passed," says Serapio, "I realized that part of the population was being attacked. And Latinos have been attacked through the threat of separating families because of legal status. I feel like the worst thing I can do as someone with legal status is to be quiet. Education is empowerment. Let’s have fun, it’s great, but let’s be serious about how to advance our town and create opportunities for community that have been overlooked."

Descubre Asheville offers listings of hotels, restaurants, bars, and activities in Asheville, as well as a blog featuring writing relevant to the area and to our contemporary moment. Check it out here