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La Casa is life with Latin flavor

La Casa Cultural brings the diversity of Miami to the first floor of Pearson Residential College.
The program, which currently has 10 resident participants, gives students the opportunity to converse with one another in Spanish and further their knowledge of Hispanic culture through activities planned throughout the year.
“La Casa is a unique living and learning experience for those interested in furthering their exposure to the Spanish language and the wide variety of cultures in which Spanish is a major language,” said Professor Lillian Manzor, the faculty advisor for the program.
“I wanted to be an RA of LCC so that I could have the opportunity to contribute to the program,” junior Shani Simpson, resident assistant of LCC, said. “I lived on the LCC during its first year and I felt that it was a program worth coming back to.”
Organizers of the program try to promote an informal interaction among students, professors and individuals from the Spanish-speaking community in Miami.
“Word of mouth is key in attracting new residents, along with forms of advertisements like flyers, e-mails and working with student organizations and various offices on campus.”
However, the La Casa program is not restricted to those students who live on the floor.
“Students who are not residents of La Casa can also participate in our programs as members,” said Manzor.
“I am most proud of the fact that we have a diverse group of students that attend the programs that the LCC program team plans,” Simpson said. “All of our activities are open to all UM students; thus everyone gets to learn more and get a taste of Hispanic culture.”
“I would like to see greater attendance at our conversation tables on Monday nights in the Mahoney/Pearson cafeteria,” Simpson said. “The table is a great way for students in all levels of Spanish to practice improving their conversational skills in a friendly setting.”
The only entrance requirement for the program is one year of college-level Spanish, three to four years of Spanish in high school, or being a native speaker of the language.
“I studied Spanish for three years in high school and one year at UM before the program was initiated,” said senior Melissa Mavers, a microbiology and immunology major. “I thought this was a great opportunity to improve my Spanish outside of the classroom and learn more about Hispanic culture.”
“My first year participating in La Casa was both the first year of the program and also my first year on campus,” said senior Greg Barnett, a communication studies and Spanish major. “The activities arranged through La Casa really explore the culture and allow for learning in a fun and enjoyable atmosphere.”
This semester, members have toured Little Havana, visited the set of an international television show, Sabado Gigante, and eaten at local Latin restaurants.
“I went to the Little Havana tour,” said Elizabeth Reese, a sophomore majoring in psychology who lives on the La Casa floor. “It was cool. We passed by a historic part of Little Havana and went to Domino Park.”
“We recently took a trip to the galleries on Calle Ocho,” said Mavers. “We also went to a taping of Sabado Gigante and saw ourselves on international television! That was a lot of fun.”
Despite the attractions and benefits of the LCC program, many participants think there is definite room for improvement.
“Perhaps with more advertising on campus, the program could grow and incorporate a greater variety of students on campus,” said Barnett. “Also, it would be helpful to have a larger number of Latinos in the program. The majority of the students now are Anglos.”
“I don’t think they should restrict the program to only people who have taken a few Spanish classes,” said Elizabeth Soffman, a sophomore majoring in English who lives in LCC. “All should be welcome.”
Some program participants feel the program has a lot to offer and that it will only get better.
“I think Professor Manzor and the RA are doing a good job at planning everything,” Reese said. “They really want to have our input.”
Students interested in living in La Casa Cultural who meet the language requirement must request to live on the designated floor in Pearson by contacting the Department of Residence Halls at 305-284-4505.

December 6, 2002

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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