February 14, 2010

New Program Aims to Bring Culture, Folklore of Latin America to Ithaca

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Ithacans gathered Saturday to hear Mexican folklore and learn a little about Latin American cultures. The first session of the Cultura! Program Series, held at the Tompkins County Public Library, featured Cecilia Chapa, a Mexican currently living in Ithaca, who narrated the legend of the founding of Tenochtitlan, Mexico’s Aztec capital. Aiming to create Ithaca’s premier Latin American Cultural Center and spread information about Latin American culture, a Cornell alumna and professor partnered with other Cornellians and Ithaca residents to launch the program.

“The Cultura! program hopes to educate [the Ithaca community] about the Latin American cultures,” said Carolina Osorio-Gil ’02, who helped launch the program in collaboration with Prof. Debra Castillo, Latin American studies. “We want [the members of our community] to be able to discern the differences that exist between the Puerto Rican and Mexican cultures, for example,” Osorio-Gil said.

A storyteller series, bringing together folklore tales from all around Latin America, is the first set of programming that Cultura! will present this year. “During this first stage, we are going to present stories for an audience of all ages. They will be understandable to little children but also interesting to adults,” Osorio-Gil said.

Through this initiative, and the possible creation of a physical Latin American Cultural Center at some point in the future, Osorio-Gil hopes that Ithaca’s Latin American residents will become more integrated in the community.

“We want this program to become a medium for Latin Americans to express their pride for what they are, what they do and what they have to share,” she said.

The program, which will present series about Latin American music and cuisine during the upcoming months, is expected to increase the level of multicultural collaboration in Ithaca through artistic and educational activities.

For Castillo, the only University faculty member currently participating in the program, Cornell’s role in this initiative should be to “provide [the program] with both intellectual and student power.”

“Cornell has not been very responsive to the needs of its Latino community in the past,” Castillo said. She believes that Cornell’s involvement within this program “could somehow make up” for its previous lack of action.

Both Osorio-Gil and Castillo hope that the Cultura! program will help consolidate the efforts of the various Latino organizations on-campus.

“We want to involve as many people as possible,” Castillo said. “The knowledge of Latin American culture is needed.”

Jessica Custer-Bindel, outreach coordinator for the Latin American Studies program, said Cultura! would improve the community’s health.

“Ithaca needs more collaboration between Cornell and its greater community,” she said. “We want Latin American Cornell students to become involved and share what they know about their cultures.”

Eric Rosario, the first Latino elected to Ithaca’s Common Council, attended the program’s first story presentation on Saturday.

“Sometimes we take for granted that Ithaca is a very liberal and accepting community,” Rosario said. “This is very dangerous, because then we are surprised by violent incidents of racial intolerance and hate.”

Rosario said the growth of the Cultura! Program is important for the community. “The increased integration of Ithaca’s Latin American community is very urgent.”

The Cultura! Program will continue this Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Tompkins County Public Library with a presentation of a Cuban folklore.

Original Author: Patricio Martinez