Cultured Communities program celebrates diversity of Hispanic cultures
BY DEBBIE PAGE
As part of its week-long Cultured Communities celebration, the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman library branch hosted an Hispanic Music and Dance Family Event on Wednesday.
Danielle Salazar began the program by talking about Hispanic performers who have gained fame, including Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, and Gloria Estefan. She explained that the root of Hispanic culture begins in Spain, showing a white and polka-dot dress and white kerchief, lent to her by a friend, that Spanish dancers commonly wear.
Salazar also showed a doll with an elaborate flamenco dress to demonstrate other regional Spanish cultural attire. “Now they only wear them for a carnival, festival or show, not for every day.”
Brenda Ramos, Danielle’s cousin, who is originally from Puerto Rico, attributed the spread of Spanish culture to Christopher Columbus, whose search for spices led him to find the New World. He returned after his initial trip with a fleet of 17 boats and continued to discover islands throughout the Caribbean, spreading Spanish culture along the way, according to Ramos.
Salazar described her family as an Hispanic melting pot. “My husband is Colombian, I was born in Nicaragua, my father is Cuban, my mother is Puerto Rican. All the spices combine into one big pot,” she joked.
Salazar also described the popularity of soccer and the World Cup, known in Hispanic countries as “futbol.” Children are obsessed with the game. “They may not even have a soccer ball. They will get whatever they have and go outside and kick it, even if with just a can.”
Attendees next enjoyed Salazar and her daughter Veronica Holguin taking turns reading the children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See in English and Spanish to get a taste of the beauty of the Spanish language.
Salazar also passed around models of a bus filled with passengers and commodities and the type of home commonly found in her native Colombia that participants enjoyed exploring.
Holguin next tried to demonstrate a marionette, which experts can “make dance and talk, which is really hilarious,” said Salazar.
“What we love the most is to dance and eat. We love to eat,” said Salazar. She passed around a package of the strong espresso that they love. Guests in Cuba would receive a cup of strong coffee, along with cheese and guava, according to Salazar.
Salazar said that many people think that Mexican food is typical of what all Hispanics eat, but that is not true. “Our American Mexican food that people eat here is nothing like what you find in Mexico. If you ask for a burrito, they think you want a donkey.”
One thing that is common across Hispanic culture is the popularity of beans in their dishes. Black, red, green and other beans are commonly eaten, especially mixed with rice, according to Salazar.
Surprisingly, many Hispanic people eat beans and rice for breakfast. “We don’t eat them at night like here. In Central and South America, they eat their heaviest meal in the morning. They do it backwards here,” she said.
Ramos explained that in those areas, they do much more outside work and eat heavily in the morning to fuel up for the day. In the evening, they each much lighter, with meals focusing more on vegetables and fruit. However, with the spread of fast food in these counties, their way of life is altering some.
Ramos loves New York City, where she can get the varied authentic dishes from many Hispanic countries in the small, obscure ethnic restaurants there.
Locally, Goya products provide authentic Hispanic foods, according Salazar. She also showed a corn meal mix with which she makes a pancake-like bread stuffed with cheese that her family enjoys.
Salazar explained that each region of her native Colombia has special dishes common to the area. In the northern coastal regions, seafood dishes and coconut rice are very common, while in the central areas a steak, rice, and avocado dish is more common.
Cubans like black beans, rice, and pork, while Puerto Rico enjoy Arroz Con Gandules, which is pigeon peas, pork, and rice, a traditional Christmas dish, said Ramos. Puerto Ricans also use a lot of sofrito, a spice mix made of onions, red peppers and ancho, while Cubans use a lot of cumin.
“Even though we are all the same, we are still very different,” said Ramos. “There’s a lot of variations between us, but the language unites us. When we are together, we are like one big family.”
Holguin also passed around several treats for attendees to enjoy, including candies, dried mango, and dulce de leche, a caramel-like dessert made from cooked condensed milk.