Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Schools celebrate culture with classroom activities.
By: Todd Martin
The Hispanic culture, with its native dance and spicy foods typically draws a crowded cafeteria at Pershing Park Elementary School.
Capacity limitations and distancing requirements prevented the school’s usual Hispanic Heritage gathering, but teachers and other staff members made sure students remembered the celebratory culture.
“We host Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the culture,” said kindergarten teacher Sonia Mason. “We celebrate with traditional activities to commemorate our ancestors.”
This year, teachers used artwork, read stories and took a virtual fieldtrip to recognize the Hispanic culture.
Kindergarten students made maracas out of cups and crepe paper after reading a book called Alpacas With Maracas.
At nearby Trimmier Elementary School, fourth-grade teachers spent a day dressed as famous Hispanic contributors and presented to individual class in a progressive “living history museum.”
Pershing Park second-grade teacher Susana Nicolau shared with students about her native Peru.
Dressed in customary dress, she showed video of her sister dancing and took her students on a virtual tour of an area of Peru where her family still lives.
“Using technology, second-graders took a virtual trip to Peru,” said school counselor Sonja Lavan. “They saw the capital of Lima and learned about dances and language and they actually found it (during the virtual tour).”
Pre-kindergarten students made blankets. Special education students did a study of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
At Trimmier on Thursday, Oct. 8, teachers Mayda Montero-Bonilla and Ramon Salazar played the roles of married artists Kahlo and Diego Rivera. They explained that Kahlo was a 1920s-era Mexican feminist known for self-portraits and floral paintings.
One of the hallmarks of the annual observance at Pershing Park is a large mural containing flags and famous Hispanic contributors. Library aide Nilka Quinones led up that effort.
At the center of the school entrance is a woman dancing with a tissue paper skirt. She represents the mother of all the Hispanic cultures and appears to welcome students along a hallway with various elements of different countries and the word “Familia.”
Quinones said she wanted the art to show the Hispanic culture’s happiness.
“It’s important,” said Lavan, “to have a sense of pride. We’re one big community that comes together to celebrate. The pandemic doesn’t stop us.”
Pershing Park bilingual parent liaison Cenia Arenas praised the school’s teachers and students for celebrating the month without the popular family gathering.
“The kids love it,” she said of the artwork and other activities students dive into during the month. “They love seeing their artwork.”
“Knowing our roots allows us to know our identity,” said Mason. “These celebrations allow us to recognize and to preserve our ancestors’ way of life. It feels good to know where we come from.”
In addition, the LULAC Herencia and Citizens Moving Forward organizations provided nachos for Pershing Park teachers one day during the week.