Hispanic Heritage Month: local man shares story of breaking barriers in pursuit of 'American Dream'

Hispanic Heritage Month: local man shares story of breaking barriers in pursuit of 'American Dream'
Posted at 1:44 AM, Oct 15, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) - — Eduardo Martinez’s story is familiar.

“Well I came to America for the American Dream like everybody,” he said. "I think it's hard to come to a new country- in my case- for an immigrant."

He and his wife fled Venezuela six years ago.

“When I came to this country I did not speak English- nothing,” he said.

Despite the challenges of a new country and foreign language, he found work at the popular restaurant chain, Taziki's in Cool Springs. “Well I prepped the sides, the rice or potatoes, all the sides,” said Martinez.

But as he climbed the ranks, a language barrier still held him back.

“What we’re seeing- the number one reason why people leave restaurants, and even have left Taziki’s- is because they were looking for a path to move up," said CEO of Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe, Dan Simpson. For some, that path means learning English, which is why the company is now offering employees like Eduardo free English lessons through a web based platform.

"So that’s why we look at this particular option, this particular benefit for our Hispanic workers, and to make sure that language is not the thing that keeps them from achieving their dreams.”

In a world of worker shortages, Simpson said the new program is a good business move for worker retention.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make first jobs, or even long term careers available to lots of individuals who sometimes get left out in communities,” said Simpson. “It’s a smart investment helping us as a business because the best leaders we could ever have in the future are the staff we have right now.”

Today you won’t find Martinez prepping side dishes- with the help of his English lessons, he’s now the general manager.

“That is the American Dream- the stability for me, for my family, for everything,” said Martinez.