Food, Music, and Family: Students and Employees Share How They Celebrate Their Hispanic Culture
“En América Latina, lo maravilloso se encuentra en vuelta de cada esquina, en el desorden, en lo pintoresco de nuestras ciudades... En nuestra naturaleza... Y también en nuestra historia.”
“In Latin America, wonderful things are found at the turn of every corner, in the mess, in the colorful cities… in our landscapes… and also in our history.” - Alejo Carpentier, Cuban writer
One of Montgomery College’s strengths is its diversity. Students, staff, and faculty from different regions and countries bring unique experiences and backgrounds to enrich college life at MC. In Montgomery County, the Hispanic population, particularly Latinos, has almost doubled in the last 22 years. The College’s current credit Latino enrollment is 26.4 percent.
To celebrate Hispanic and Latino students and employees during Hispanic Heritage Month, which starts Sept. 15, @ Montgomery College asked what elements of Hispanic and Latino culture bring joy, and how family heritage is passed from one generation to the next. For immigrants—or their children and grandchildren—food and music consistently topped the list of ways in which to instill family and country history, to connect generations, and to unite families in traditions.
Carolina De Fatima Yupari Silva
Plans to transfer to a four-year university after the fall semester.
“One of the elements that makes me proud of having Hispanic heritage is the values with which they make us grow during our lives. I feel that respect is a giant value taught by parents for generations. Another element that makes me proud is the history we have. Each country has gone through so many things, but they have still been able to overcome themselves: colonization independence, terrorism, etc. Learning and knowing about the history of each country is very important since it is basically the roots and everything that the ancestors went through. What makes me very happy is the food! For me, the food of each country is incredible, with different dishes that always delight us and envelop us with flavor, making us fall in love more with our countries and their meals.”
Plans to graduate by spring 2023
“One of the biggest elements of being Hispanic and one of the most enjoyable parts is that we are proud of our culture. I've never met a Hispanic person who has not been overjoyed by a simple tradition because as Hispanics, we like to party, and to having a reason (not matter how small) to gather is exciting. My family has passed down our traditions by having traditional food at birthdays and holidays—and having fun as they would when they were in their own country.”
Program Director, Information Technology Institute
Workforce Development and Continuing Education Division
“I consider myself Hispanic and Afro-Latina. There is a lot of diversity within our people. Although we come from different countries, and we all have different backgrounds, every Hispanic country belongs to a subgroup. We are very unique in terms of language, music, art, and cuisine—and it makes it very interesting. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know about Hispanic culture, there is always something different and interesting to learn.
I am Dominican. I came to the United States as an adult, so I came with all my cultural customs, and in my family, we love Dominican food. We love cooking. I have two daughters, so every time we get together to cook a meal, a Dominican dish, I try to turn that moment into a learning experience. If there is some history, or something interesting about that dish that relates to our roots, I try to teach them that as well so that they can relate, they can feel proud of their roots, and also so they can identify and embrace their Afro-Latino identity.”
Eduardo Fuentes (not pictured)
Building and Grounds Maintenance Manager
Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus
“I consider myself Mexican. I take joy in seeing us work in many different levels at the College. I am first generation; my parents worked in entry-level positions as far as they could go. I’m always proud to see many other generations coming and doing similar as my parents did. They showed me hard work and dedication to family.
Having a big extended family, our cousins were like siblings, at least when I was growing up. Any given weekend, there were probably about 30 of us at my aunt’s house, cooking, just hanging out. It’s a great feeling.”
“I consider myself Hispanic, Mexican, Latina, and American. I feel proud because we are very hardworking. Despite having to migrate to other countries for different reasons, we always push forward. Our culture is everywhere and we never forget our values, our roots, and the most important thing: our loved ones.
As a mother, I have taught my children Spanish, so they can communicate with our relatives who don’t speak English. They know that by speaking two languages, they will have more opportunities. My children were born in this country, but they have been part of a group of Mexican folklore, by which they have had the chance to represent part of their culture and traditions. They know they are part of two countries and love the idea.”
Ramon De La Cruz
Mentor, Music and Advancing Latino Male Achievement (ALMA) Students
Advisor, Rockville Campus Outdoor Adventures Club
“I am not Hispanic, as I do not originate from Spain. I am native and Afro-Latino. Our history is rich and connected to all the natives on Earth. Our culture is based on family, community, and helping one another. As Latinos can come in all colors, shapes, languages, and areas, we are the bridge for racial unity one day. The pride I experience from our Latino community comes from the strength we have exhibited historically to the world while experiencing oppression. Identity is not a niche, it’s an understanding. Learning and experiencing our Latino culture makes it very easy to live, love, and celebrate our culture together. The more I learn about Latino culture, the more I can connect it to ancient African culture and what a beautifully unifying thought it would be for us to think of ourselves as one people, one human race.
Music, food, and stories are the movers of culture in our family. Holidays are extra special with our family, cooking, and being together. Our traditions include making pasteles (green plantain-based tamale wrapped and boiled in banana leaf), alcapurrias (fried ground green plantain with a ground beef center), arroz con gandules (saffron rice with pigeon peas), fried sweet plantains, a roast of pernil (garlic and spice seasoned pork shoulder), and a chicken side. We love dancing to Latin music, playing traditional American holiday music, or listening to our elders—tíos, tías, abuelas, and abuelos—while they tell us their life stories. In my music, I make sure to add a component of Latino music so that magic is preserved. Actually, I moved to the DMV area from New York City to be closer to my family. I want my children to experience that magic of community, family, and love. I love talking to my sons, telling them stories of their past, and sharing that communion of spirit with our ancestors under the stars.”
“I feel very proud to be Hispanic because I feel like I have an identity. I belong to a group, and I have an identity that makes me very happy. I have my children here. My four kids, some born in Colombia and some born in the United States, feel Colombian. My daughter wears the typical Barranquilla carnival outfit when the festival comes around. The music, the salsa, the Vallenato (folk music from Colombia)… that's in the blood. I started really valuing my culture and Hispanic-ness (Hispanidad) when I left Colombia.
It is important to recognize your roots because when you recognize your identity, you are never lost, and that is what you must pass on to your children.”
Betsy Yenny Arroyo
“I consider myself Hispanic. We were conquered by the Spanish, and we speak that language although we have other dialects. My children also speak perfect Spanish. My daughter is 27. She is an English teacher. My son is 18. My dad and mom are all here—and we are very united. We always try to follow and maintain the beliefs and the roots of our grandparents and our ancestors. I learned cooking from my grandmother—and I love to cook. In Latin countries, we have tight-knit families. We value respect and education for our children. It is one's pride to maintain our beliefs, religion, and respect for our elders. We love music. There is a lot of warmth. The food is spectacular. Food, family, and music are things that unite us, connect us.”
Lorena Yasmin Amaya Hernandez
“I am proud to be Hispanic and to be from El Salvador. My parents taught me that—and I taught it to my children. There are many stories of our ancestors that our grandparents told us and get passed on from one generation to another. We have been taught to work hard, to be proud of doing our work well, and to respect our elders.”
Mao, Dominican Republic
Public Safety Officer
“I pass on my heritage to my kids, who were born here, by telling them about Dominican history, by taking them on vacation and physically showing them, and by talking about the culture. I make food from the Dominican Republic—and my kids love it. I constantly do research about the history of the Dominican Republic and share it with my kids, so they have a better understanding of the culture and where it all started.”
Maria E. Vasquez
Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus
“I raised my children the way my parents and grandparents raised me: respect people. I feel very proud of my parents and also of my children. I love our food and customs.”