MS Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Buenos días, Middle School!” announced Spanish teacher Debora Lee as students in Classes 4-7 gathered via Zoom from their respective classrooms.

“Happy Hispanic Heritage Month,” Profe Lee said, explaining that Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 through October 15, recognizes the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. “Today’s Middle School Assembly theme is food and culture of Latin America – and we have a special guest with us today!”

Upper School Spanish teacher Laura de Toledo, now illuminated center-screen, waved enthusiastically with a wide smile on her face.

Hola estudiantes! I am Señora de Toledo from Upper School,” she began. “I’m so glad to share my love and passion for this Argentinian drink because I am from Argentina!”

Señora de Toledo quickly pulled up slides to showcase ‘Mate’ (pronounced mah-tay), which she compared to green tea. “It includes yerba, which means herb, and it is the beverage of friendship,” she said. “Pre Covid, we would share this among friends and family, and my Class 10 students and I often had some together!”

Señora spoke with clear admiration for her culture and showed students her impressive collection of ‘mate gourds’ which are the cups/containers made to hold the drink.

She even excitedly shared that in 2017, a group of Argentinian friends developed an emoji for mate! Before hopping off, Señora extended an invitation to students to visit her office any time if they would like to try the special drink.

After bidding farewell to Señora, students watched a short video that explained why Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated during September and October. The tradition began in 1968 with a weeklong recognition, then, in 1988, it was announced that the celebration would span 30 days. This was done to commemorate the independence of countries like Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala, among others, which took place across those weeks. In addition, many who are Latinx celebrate Día de la Raza in mid-October.

Students were also treated to a lovely video that featured three Latinx Professional Community members sharing special pieces of their Hispanic cultures. (Each spoke in Spanish while English subtitles appeared underneath).

Yolanda Sánchez, from Chapin’s Business Office, shared that one of the things she likes most about Guatemala is the way two different cultures have come together to live in peace. Ilda Santana, from our Dining Services team and who was born in El Salvador, discussed her favorite dish called pupusas, which are similar to empanadas. Lastly, Alsacia Batista, also from Dining Services, spoke of traditional dishes from her country.

A third video showcased the national dishes of various Latin American countries. For example, Bolivia’s is Salteñas, a savory pastry often filled with chicken, beef, pork and vegetables. Other examples included Chile’s Pastel de Choclo; Colombia’s Bandeja Paisa; Cuba’s Ropa Vieja; and Mexico’s Mole.

To end the Assembly, Profe Lee left students with an activity to complete in Advisory. “I want you to think about your own food, culture and identity,” she said. “Complete the prompt ‘You know you are home when your house smells like…’”

“For example,” she continued. “I’m Hispanic and Korean. For me, Kimchi reminds me of home. When I was younger, I used to be embarrassed because it can have a funky smell, but now I’m very proud of my culture.”

The students would later write their answers on Post-its and add them to the bulletin boards on display throughout the Middle School floors.

In addition to their division-wide Assembly, students have been learning about Hispanic Heritage Month inside their classrooms.

In Class 4, students identified Spanish-speaking countries (21 in all!) and proceeded to research the various countries’ music, celebrations, traditions and culture. Meanwhile, in Class 5, the young scholars spent one recent morning rotating between homerooms to engage in various activities including salsa dancing, making papel picado (Mexican streamers), creating surreal art based on famous Hispanic artists (i.e., Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and José Clemente Orozco) and studying the geography of Spanish-speaking countries. In Classes 6 and 7, students created fun activities for younger students including crosswords, Quizlet and Kahoot games, which were used during Advisory flex time. All students discussed the vital differences between the terms Latinx, Hispanic and Spanish.