Anne Villalobos uses old family values to help area Hispanic populations

Anne Villalobos

Anne Villalobos, Long Prairie, said she never expected to be using her Spanish as much as she does. Villalobos works with Todd County as an on-call interpreter and teaches English as a Second Language classes and citizenship courses to area Hispanics.

By EMILIE THIESSEN, Staff Writer
emilie.thiessen@ecm-inc.com

At age 52, Long Prairie resident Anne Villalobos said she is still a Daddy’s girl.

Villalobos, who works as an interpreter for area Hispanics, said she is proud to uphold many of the values and traditions her parents, Roman and Claire Primus, instilled in her.

As a young girl, when Villalobos would ask her father questions about solving a problem or facing a predicament, she said he would help her by always asking more questions, helping her work through the issue herself. Villalobos said she continues to practice this technique to help immigrants  with their problems.

“I have kind of carried on that tradition in my life,” she said. “And I think that is what life is all about. If we can’t keep learning and keep sharing what we do learn — encouraging others to learn — we are all going to just shrivel up and grow old.”

Villalobos, who has  been unable to find full-time work after a recent surgery to her shoulder, spends much of her time each week working with Todd County interpreting for area Hispanics. She also teaches English as a Second Language classes and citizenship courses in Long Prairie.

Villalobos said she also works with some Hispanic people who need help with transportation, either giving rides or teaching them to drive.

“A lot of our newer hispanics don’t have drivers licenses so they need help driving to the Twin Cities if they have to go down for immigration appointments,” she said.

Villalobos said although she has always been drawn to Hispanic culture, she never expected it to play such a significant role in her life.

“I never imagined I would be working with so many hispanics at so many different levels,” she said.

Villalobos was born in Sauk Centre and spent most of her young life on her parents farm in Long Prairie, where her parents still live. After graduating from Long Prairie High School, she attended school at the College of Idaho in Caldwell and eventually obtained her degree in political science.

In the 1970s, Idaho’s Hispanic population was quickly growing, Villalobos said,  and she was inspired to learn Spanish to communicate with the many migrants in the area. Villalobos was so intrigued with Hispanic culture she said, she moved to El Paso, Texas, where she met her ex-husband, who is also the father of her 19-year-old daughter, Katie.

In 1996, when Katie was 4 years old, Villalobos split with her husband and moved back to Long Prairie, returning to the place she said would be the best for raising her daughter — close to her mother and father.

“I figured I needed some place with good male role models and back home was about the closest place I could think of,” she said.

Villalobos said she didn’t want to give up her married name, which is Spanish for “village of wolves,” to keep the same surname as her daughter.

Villalobos said she adores the Spanish language and the Hispanic people but after returning from El Paso, she was looking forward to speaking less Spanish.

“I enjoy working with people,” she said. “But I moved back from El Paso and thought I was never going to have to speak a whole lot of Spanish again … [Now] some days I speak more Spanish than English.”

Villalobos said she is very happy to see the Hispanic population move closer toward self-sufficiency as more Hispanics become bilingual. She said she also is excited to see the constant mingling of cultures.

“[Immigrants] are a big part of our future,” she said.

There will always be a strong connection between her and the Hispanic people, Villalobos said, thanks to her family. The values, morals and traditions she was taught during childhood reign very true for most Hispanic families. She said she feels like she will always be able to identify with their way of life.

“Family is everything to us,” she said.

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