Why a white town paid for a class called ‘Hispanics 101’

Repeating Islands

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A report by Danielle Paquette for the Washington Post.

In a ballroom with antlers on the wall and hoof prints on the carpet, diversity coach Miguel Joey Aviles asked whether anyone knew how to merengue.

“Lord have mercy,” he said, counting hands. “Only two?”

This is “Hispanics 101,” a class meant to teach employers in the Ozarks resort town of 11,400 how to lure workers from Puerto Rico and persuade them to stay.

The economy depends on it. As tourism season kicks off this month, the remote getaway known for dinner theaters, country music concerts and a museum of dinosaur replicas has 2,050 vacancies — and a lack of locals applying.

So, like other areas with tight labor markets, Branson finds itself getting creative to fill jobs — in this case by recruiting people from a part of the United States with much higher unemployment.

But the plan…

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