The Town of Cochrane isn’t just growing physically, but culturally too.
The Hispanic community is planting its roots and by January 2018 the town can expect to have both a Spanish language church service and a Spanish bilingual daycare.
According to Statistics Canada, Cochrane had more than 620 Spanish speakers in 2016 – 185 of whom speak Spanish as their first language.
“I think we are the first (Spanish) bilingual school here in Cochrane. We are so excited,” Jessica Espinosa, who co-founded the Smart Little People daycare with her husband, Rigoberto Trevino.
The couple first moved to Canmore from Mexico with their son five years ago and after falling in love with the view of the Rocky Mountains. When they found the commute to Calgary too cumbersome, they decided to settle in Cochrane.
“It has all the ‘checks’,” Trevino said. “It’s a nice place, it’s an old city, it’s growing, so we think it’s a good opportunity to invest.”
“We saw there wasn’t any bilingual school,” Espinosa added.
The couple have been planning for and saving up for the daycare for the last four years.
It will serve both English-only speakers and those who speak Spanish or are interested in speaking Spanish.
“People today, they like the idea to be bilingual but some just want it to be English so we are offering both,” Trevino said.
The daycare will have four teaching rooms – half for English-only speakers and half for bilingual. Those rooms will also be divided into age groups – two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half year olds and three-and-a-half to five-year olds.
Espinosa said she will serve as the preschool director as well as a teacher and her husband will take care of administrative work.
Though the building, located in Fireside, is still under construction, it is expected to be ready by Dec. 15 and open house is tentatively set for Dec. 18.
The daycare is accepting registrants, and the couple has noted there are already a handful of kids signed up.
Meanwhile, the first Spanish church service piloted on Nov. 26 at the Bow Valley Baptist Church and attracted about 50 people.
“It’s pretty amazing – it’s overwhelming. I didn’t think we were going to have that many people,” said Christian Obando, church planter and soon to be pastor of Cochrane Emmanuel Baptist Church.
“It was really positive feedback,” he said. “We’ve had several people saying ‘we have attended English speaking churches but it’s nice to be able to have something in my own language.’”
Obando moved to Cochrane eight months ago with his wife to be closer to friends already living in town. It was one of his friends who first had the idea of the Spanish church.
“We were talking with them and got really excited about the vision of their idea,” Obando said.
Though the Emmanuel Baptist Church doesn’t own its own space yet, plans are to provide services starting in January at Bow Valley Church.
The Spanish church has also held multiple events to attract potential members, but Obando said he doesn’t want to restrict the church to the Hispanic community.
“If we are blessed to have our own facility in the near future, we definitely would want to use that space for not only the Hispanic community but for Cochrane in general,” he said. “We are considering hosting Spanish classes for anybody that wants to learn the language.”
With that in mind, Obando said the church is also deliberating over whether the services should be held only in Spanish or if it should be bilingual.
“What we’re finding is there’s a lot of couples where one spouse is Hispanic and the other is not,” Obando said.
For now, he said the church will continue to put the word out.
“Our expectation is that the more services we have hopefully (the more) we’ll find friends and people that are Hispanic as well.”