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The City Journals

Students share music, food during Hispanic Heritage Week

Nov 22, 2021 02:32PM ● By Jet Burnham

Latinos in Action class members dance for their peers as part of Hispanic Heritage Week. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Spravzoff Mohor.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Hispanic students shared their culture with their peers during Hispanic Heritage Week at Joel P. Jensen Middle. All week during the lunch period, students from the Latinos in Action class piped latino music into the cafeteria and danced for their peers.

Ninth grader Alan Valazquez said it was fun for everyone, with many students joining in.

“Even people who don't know any Spanish, they also got really excited and they danced,” he said.

Students got a sample of a variety of Latino music genres such as bachata, corridos and cumbia. Many students expressed an interest in learning the dances, so the last day was dedicated specifically to dance instruction. In addition to the informal dances during lunch time, the LIA students also prepared and performed a group dance, choreographed by LIA adviser Jose Farias, that showcased a variety of styles of cultural dances.

Students were also enthusiastic about the LIA fundraiser that sold chicharrónes and Manzanita; they sold out in just two days.

Hispanic Heritage Week was held Oct. 11–15 as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month. The purpose was to educate their peers and teachers.

“We want to be able to show people our culture and show we're just as important as other people,” Alan said.

The LIA students said they have often been misunderstood and stereotyped because of their heritage. By sharing a part of their culture, they hoped to change some of the negative misconceptions people have about them.

Ninth grader America Romero said she wants people to understand that Hispanic stereotypes— like that all Mexicans are in gangs or that they only eat tacos—are not true. 

“Most of us are misunderstood, and honestly, we are really sweet,” she said. “And we have a lot more food than just tacos.”

Eighth grader Alexandra Largo Alvarez said Heritage Week provided a good opportunity for students to have a positive experience with Hispanic culture. She said many students expressed interest in learning more.

“They just want to learn about the culture,” she said. “They want to learn how to dance, and they try to learn more. And they like the food—that's how we sold out. Even though they don’t understand, they want to understand it and they look at it in a positive way.”

LIA adviser Amanda Spravzoff Mohor said about 40% of the students at JPJMS have some Hispanic heritage, though not all of them identify as Hispanic or Latino.

“It doesn't look the same for everybody,” she said. “We've got newcomers that just came from another country this year, and then we've got kids that might have a Hispanic last name but don't know any Spanish and don't have any connections to their heritage. So you've got the whole range here.” 

Students from various Hispanic and Latino backgrounds take the LIA class and serve in leadership positions in the LIA club. They are united by a shared experience of being a part of multiple cultures.

“We all come from different places or different backgrounds, but we all get along,” Alan said. “We think of each other as like a family here in this class.”

The class is a place where students can support each other so it is not exclusively for Latino students. Ninth grader McCoy Ferrerath is Asian. He joined LIA so he could learn more about his friends’ culture.