‘Casa Cultural’ promotes culture

Students in Pearson Residential College have the option of living in an environment where they can speak Spanish, learn more about Latin culture and promote diversity.

“La Casa Cultural,” which celebrates its third year in action this Fall, promotes Spanish culture by offering activities ranging from on-campus events such as potlucks, discussions, films, parties, and weekly conversation hours, to field trips to places like Little Havana, where the students go “gallery hopping” along with an artist. There the students discuss the different types of art they find, said Dr. Lillian Manzor, who along with her husband Daniel Correa serve as associate masters (faculty advisors) for the program.

Other activities such as Salsa or Tango classes are offered every semester, and professors and storytellers are invited to speak to the members. Last year, a trip to the Latin Grammy Awards was planned, but did not happen when the show was canceled after the events of September 11.

First named “La Casa Hispana” by Professor Rebecca Biron, the title was changed to promote the cultural aspect of the program, said Manzor.

“We want the focus to be more on the culture than the language,” she said.

Pearson’s first floor houses “La Casa,” which began with two rooms, but now has four. Twelve students have enrolled for the fall, and three suites have been reserved. Manzor said there are no plans to increase the size of the program at this time.

“If the entire floor gets filled up, we would consider it,” she said.

Manzor said participants in the program “self-select.” They decide at the beginning of housing sign-up if they would like to be involved in “La Casa.” It is advertised through the different majors and minors offered through the University. For the fall, Manzor is considering different advertising approaches to promote the program.

“We’re thinking of video taping activities, and putting them on the web. And we are going to do something through the school newspaper,” Manzor said.

Although Spanish is the primary language spoken within “La Casa,” other languages, English included, also are used. Spanish does not need to be the students’ first language to participate in the program. In fact, the majority of the participants consider Spanish their second or third language. Students from non-Latin American countries, such as Japan – with no ethnic Spanish background have participated.

There are only two eligibility requirements: students must live in Pearson have previously enrolled in Spanish classes at the appropriate level, Manzor said.

“Any student who has done at least one year (two semesters) of Spanish 211 or above, or is at that level [is eligible to join],” Manzor said.

Senior Sara Dominguez, who will be a new member in the Fall, is excited.

“I think the program is a wonderful idea. I am now able to embrace my culture and learn so much more,” she said.

Students interested in beginning their own form of “La Casa” in other residential colleges on campus should begin by “talking to their Masters in the dorms,” Manzor said.

“This is a pilot program. We want to perhaps open it up to say, French students. We want a multi-cultural floor. We wanted to start with “La Casa” and then branch out to other types,” Manzor said.