Internships in the Hispanic Community
On May 27th we made a half day excursion to Woodburn to learn more about this enclave of Hispanic Oregonians. We first visited AIS (Academy of International Studies) where our students had the opportunity to meet and talk, in Spanish, with a group of Woodburn high school students. Our hosts spoke openly about what it's like to attend a school with a demographic of 99.5% Hispanic, what languages they use in school and at home, family life, tastes in music, what teens do in Woodburn, where's the best Mexican food in Woodburn and what Catlin life is like. I had the great pleasure of speaking with AIS counselor, Mario Garza. From our conversation, I learned that there is a great number of tejanos or Texans of Mexican decent who came to settle in Woodburn...entire populations came and settled in the area, including his family, and I was not aware of this. After this fabulous visit, we headed out to explore downtown Woodburn. Our first stop was Luis's Taquería. Since AIS students had highly recommended this establishment and I knew this was the taquería where then Senator Obama paid a visit while campaigning, we were eager to eat there ourselves. WOW did we eat well! All of us left very satisfied and thrilled that we have something in common with the President. After we ate we split up into smaller groups to explore the very walkable downtown. Students observed that almost all stores in the two block radius were geared toward a Hispanic clientele. Almost all signs were in Spanish and/or bilingual Spanish and English. All store clerks spoke Spanish. Several storefronts had window displays with merchandise related to quinceañeras (when a girl celebrates her 15th birthday she becomes a quinceañera...while not celebrated in all Spanish speaking countries, this celebration is very popular in Mexico and is growing in popularity in our local community). I don´t recall seeing any restaurants that that did not serve Mexican food. Before boarding our bus I went to a grocery store to buy pastries for the ride home. The students LOVED the cream filled churros and I thought the cuerno (horn shaped sweet bread) I ate was magnífico. While I look forward to reading the student´s written reflections about the excursion, from what comments I heard that day it would seem that it was a very positive experience for all. My favorite quote of the day was from Perla who said, ¨Me siento como si estuviera en México¨ or ¨I feel as if I were in Mexico¨.
Yesterday 9 Spanish V Honors students and both Spanish VH teachers volunteered at Fiesta Cinco de Mayo 2010...our third consecutive year volunteering for the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association. We were the first group of volunteers to arrive and were very warmly received by Kathy Romero and members of the Board of Directors of the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association. Our crew was given the charge of welcoming 24 schools and help seat some 1,500 children, chaperones and teachers who came to attend the annual Children´s Assembly. The Ballet Folklórico de Guadalajara performed and dazzled the crowd with regional dances while a spectacular group of mariachi musicians provided accompaniment and encouraged the audience to join them for Mexican classics like, Cielito lindo. Our students also helped staff the PGSCA volunteer booth and the children´s tent....who knew our group had a future in face painting!? After we cleared the tent from the Children´s Assembly, some of us assisted in readying the area for the Cinco de Mayo Naturalization Ceremony. I found it especially rewarding to be able to help greet these new citizens and welcome them to the festival. Over 20 nations were represented and 49 new citizens were sworn in. Our students were able to witness this event and hear from a series of honored guests who acknowledged the importance of education, cultural diversity, being plurilingual, the strong and positive Hispanic presence in our state and the importance of getting involved in our community. Please view the photos taken of our group in action and check out the short movie we´ve put together to help give you a taste of our fabulosa Fiesta Cinco de Mayo 2010 experience. http://blip.tv/file/3587708
Spring is in the air and the time has come to move out of the classroom, get involved in our community and put our Spanish to the test. Since January the class has read about the history of the Hispanic presence in Oregon. Students have listened to oral histories documenting the Hispanic experience here in the Portland Metro Area and beyond. We researched and read about organizations and programs designed to improve the lives of our Hispanic neighbors. We hosted community leader and director of CAUSA (Oregon’s Immigrant Rights Coalition), Francisco López and discussed with him the topic of immigration reform and how it relates to Oregon. Next week students will interview local artist Eduardo Fernández who was recently chosen to paint Governor Kulongoski´s official portrait. Currently our class meets once or twice per week to allow students more flexibility in their schedules so that they can complete their required service learning hours. These ¨pasantías¨ are like mini-internships. Similar to our senior project program, students research an organization of interest, are matched with a mentor and are required to document and share about their experience through blogs. As you will see, these blog entries are requied to be written in Spanish while students have the option to translate them into English. This year the mentoring organizations include: Teatro Milagro, Schoolita Alegría, Bienestar, Midland Public Library and Art on Alberta. The class will also help staff three important spring events in our local Hispanic community. These events are: El Día del Niño hosted by Centro Cultural of Washington County and Cornelius Public Library on 4/24, El Día del Niño hosted by Midland Public Library on 4/25, and the 26th Annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta.
As their teacher, I am very proud of the genuine interest they continue to show in the subject matter and of their desire to learn from and support the mentoring organizations. These students are committed to learn more about our local Hispanic community and they are hopeful that their contributions may help make a difference. They are finding meaningful ways to take their years of Spanish classroom instruction beyond the confines of classroom walls and engage with native speakers living in our community...I can´t think of a better way for them to conclude their formal language study with us?!