The news is this: Chiva, LLC, which was founded by Victor Palomino, Sarah Nuñez, and Carolina McCready, will be closing over the next month. The decision to dissolve the business was made after Sarah received a dream job offer from the University of Louisville – a position as the Assistant Director of Cultural Center in charge of the Latino/Hispanic initiatives. Sarah and Victor will be relocating by the end of February.
Chiva was started by the team in 2011 when they purchased a school bus from “a hippie couple living in the bus in West Asheville,” says Nuñez. “After so many years in the community, and knowing the access issues many people have to truly participate, we could not resist the opportunity to buy the bus and put our vision into action,” says Palomino. The vision of Chiva has been to overcome access challenges in WNC through creativity, arts and a bus. The bus or “community tool” brought educational opportunities, story collection, dialogue circles, and art to where people live, work, and play.
In 2013, Chiva, LLC launched with the help of funding from the Asheville Area Arts Council and many community volunteers. As McCready points out “the day we painted the bus was the highlight of this experience for me. We had over 30 volunteers help us to clean and paint the bus and create what the Chiva is today.”
The social enterprise model the Chiva utilized is a tool the partners can carry into all their work in the future. The Chiva vision will also live on with the partners as they continue their community work in Asheville and Louisville.
The good news is that Chiva bus will also continue on in WNC. To ensure this, the “Chivistas” have decided to donate the bus to a local nonprofit, El Centro in Hendersonville, NC. Nuñez points out, “El Centro has been working to serve the Latino populations of Henderson County for over 14 years. I am confident they will be able to utilize the Chiva as a ‘community tool’ like we did.”
El Centro provides space for Latinos to develop a sense of belonging, share problems and organize around issues that affect the community. Program areas focus on adult education in Spanish opportunities, immigration relief efforts, developing community leaders and cultural events. The presence of the center and its programs has contributed towards reaching their vision to create a welcoming and just community where everyone is treated with dignity, valued and respected.
In a statement by El Centro Board of Directors they show their excitement for this new opportunity coming their way. “The board of El Centro feels very fortunate for the gift of the bus from Chiva, LLC. The ability to have a mobile extension of the center will greatly impact the centro’s programming. We have a long history of collaborating with partners to increase access to community resources and information for the Latino community. We look forward to 2015 continuing to partner and utilizing the bus as a mobile community center! Thank you Chiva for your hard work getting the bus on the road, creating a beautiful community project and your generosity with the center! We will continue your dreams for the bus and working towards a more just community.”
The chavistas are equally excited and Victor Palomino said it best as “the bus will continue to transport opportunities to people and the dream lives on.”
You can continue to follow the bus through El Centro. Find them on Facebook – El Centro Hendersonville or at elcentrohvl.com.