Featuring free food, music and performances, Cornell’s first Cultural Fest aimed to achieve the dual goals of celebrating the diversity of the student body and inspiring students to learn more about other cultures.
The inaugural festival was a platform for people to speak out against cultural intolerance and get their voices heard by a larger community, according to Chris Arce ’19, head of programming for the event.
“I think a good consequence of Culture Fest will be that people [are] getting out of their bubbles, and are understanding where people come from and what their experiences are,” he said.
Arce hoped that a consistent desire to understand and appreciate diversity, rather than as a temporary reaction to a hateful incident, will inspire a desire to learn about other cultures.
“I hope that people learn to appreciate the differences in others, but also recognize that we shouldn’t celebrate our differences just because something bad serves as a stimulus for that appreciation,” he explained.
The student organizations that attended the Culture Fest echoed the idea of breaking the boundaries and accepting the differences between cultures.
Vivian Vázquez ’18, president of the Cuban American Student Association, said that CASA is open for everyone who’s interested in the Cuban culture, even if they aren’t of Cuban descent.
“[We] want to share our culture with other people so that they can learn about where we come from,” Vázquez said. “We want to be able to interact and meet with other people, so that they can get a taste for our culture and be exposed to it.”
Chanan Heisler ’19, vice president of religious programming for the Center for Jewish Living, expressed similar opinions on the center being open to all individuals with any level of interest in Judaism.
“The most involved members will be people who want Jewish identity and Jewish culture to be a pivotal part of their college experience,” Heisler said. “Depending on where you see Jewish identity playing a role in your college experience, we can serve those needs in various ways.”
Heisler said that there is an interesting balance between the intimacy of identifying with one’s’ own culture and venturing out to explore other cultures.
“On the one hand, [there] is a place where everyone has their own space where they can … feel completely comfortable and immersed in a single identity,” Heisler said. “Beyond that, they are able to expand beyond their immediate circles to get a sense of what else is out there.”
Paola Camacho-Lemus ’18, president of the Translator Interpreter Program, which aims to provide language assistance for emergency or non-emergency situations in Ithaca and the Tompkins County area, hopes that events like Culture Fest can promote multiculturalism within the community.
“The role of having such a huge event focused on culture is to promote multiculturalism and, in doing so, it makes people more conscious that there are other sets of culture and languages out there to be cognizant of,” Camacho-Lemus said.
Heisler hopes that through events like Culture Fest, students will consider future involvement with organizations based on these brief cultural introductions after getting a small taste of many different cultures.
“What it does is it lets people create associations and create more context to what else is out there,” Heisler said. “Maybe it will lead to eventually building a stronger relationship with other communities.”