Conexión is the Spanish translation for “connection.” Conexión Americas is a nonprofit co-founded by Belmont alumnus and professor of Management and Entrepreneurship José González. Twenty years ago, González, Renata Sotó and María Clara Mejía created Conexión Americas to provide resources for Nashville’s growing Latino and Hispanic community.
The Nashville-based nonprofit has become an extensive organization serving over 9,000 individuals and families every year with a mission to build a welcoming community and create opportunities where Latino families can belong, contribute and succeed.
Beyond his mentorship and service to Belmont students and alumni, González is a well-known force in Nashville who advocates for cultural connectivity and awareness in Middle Tennessee. Mesa Komal Café coming to Belmont is a dream fulfilled for him.
“A window of opportunity opened and I was at the right place, at the right time, in the right conditions to connect the dots of the partnership,” Gonzalez commented. “I, personally, had the dream of Mesa Komal having a permanent retail location somewhere in the city. A year ago, I could not have anticipated that the location was going to be on Belmont’s campus.”
Like many in Nashville, González has seen the city’s demographic landscape explode with a variety of cultures as more and more diverse populations are attracted to live in Music City. Belmont is beginning to transform as well with diverse students representing 23.6% of the fall 2022 freshman class.
The variety that Mesa Komal Café adds to on-campus dining is a welcomed benefit, but González understands that the subtle presence of diverse food can have a substantial impact that organically increases and promotes cultural awareness.
“When people from underrepresented communities have an opportunity to engage with Belmont and see a place that’s being intentional about connecting with communities it creates an awareness,” he said. “They think, ‘that is a place that wants me. They want my business. They want to engage with me. They want my child to go here.’ There is an awareness that this is a welcoming place.”
González credits the Belmont administration for employing new strategic objectives and creating an environment that encourages places like Mesa Komal to join the Belmont community.
“With the arrival of Dr. Jones and the establishment of a very clear strategic vision, I have seen more effort, targeted resource allocation, discussion and results around this in the last 12 months than I’ve seen in the prior 20 years,” González said. “Had his notion of being a radical champion not been envisioned for Belmont, Mesa Komal Café may not have been an opportunity.”
This year, González stepped down from his active role as finance director at Conexión Americas. With his attention more centered on his work as a professor, he continues to provide students with value outside of the classroom by taking them to visit places like the Nashville Entrepreneur Center where they can get connected to opportunities like internships that are vital for gaining professional experience.
He believes that the University’s effort to connect and create a welcoming environment for diverse populations is a journey that has just begun. “We’re at the beginning,” he said. “It’s not only about the Latino and Hispanic community but the broader, underrepresented communities. Elevating the awareness that an institution like Belmont is supporting something like Mesa Komal Café is something that I hope is a legacy.”