Local groups celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month
WORTHINGTON -- In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15- Oct. 15, the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, the Nobles County Library and the SW/WC Service Cooperative are offering programs and educational tools to honor Hispanic contributions in southwest Minnesota and beyond.
Jaidy Kolander, a program aid with the NCIC, said the group will celebrate at 6 p.m. Monday during Worthington's Worlds Market at the Worthington campus commons of Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
Kolander said Hispanic dancing, singing and presentations will be offered, and anyone is welcome to attend to learn more about the culture.
"We want to share and celebrate our culture," said Kolander, a native of Columbia. "There's a lot of Spanish culture in this town, and it's good for people to meet more (Hispanics). "
Kolander said the diverse range of Hispanic populations in the area include people from Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador.
Julie Wellnitz, director of the Nobles County Library, said an end cap display at the Worthington branch library is decorated in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. She said the library offers an array of Spanish materials, including books, CD's and language learning tools for children and adults.
Idalia Leuze, integration coordinator for SW/WC Service Cooperative, and a Hispanic native, said it's imperative to realize the contributions that Hispanics make in the area.
"It's important to me because it's part of my identity and it celebrates the positives in my culture," Leuze said. "I think the Latino community has a lot of assets and strengths that we need to focus on, including family and values."
Leuze said people can learn more about the culture by reading books about Hispanic cultures and attending traditional events such as quinceaneras.
Kolander and Leuze agreed that the biggest challenge Hispanics face when moving to the area is the language barrier.
"At NCIC we encourage them to take classes to learn (English), because that's one way they can succeed," Kolander said.
Hispanic children easily pick up English in school, but adults struggle more, Kolander said. To help them, NCIC offers Adult Basic Education, which is a free language learning program.
She said the acceptance of cultural differences can be hard on everyone involved.
"Some people think Hispanics come here and take their jobs, (but) people come here because they need to support their families," Kolander said. "We have to come together to support each other and survive in spite of the circumstances. We just hope that people understand we're human beings and have feelings like anyone else."
Leuze said the integration and acceptance of diverse cultures has come a long way.
"At the time I was growing up in the '70s, nothing was Hispanic," Leuze said. People didn't know about the culture that much. (Now) it's a very different world we live in."
Leuze said Hispanic children growing up in the area today are easily adapting and being accepted by their peers. She said that by integrating different nationalities at a young age, children are learning cross-cultural skills, how to communicate with each other and about different traditions.
"All these kids come together during the school day and get along great," Leuze said. "It's just amazing."
"I think the Latino community has a lot of assets and strengths that we need to focus on, including family and values," Leuze said.
Events associated with Hispanic Heritage Month help create awareness of Latino members in the community, Leuze said. The goal of her organization is to promote innovative and integrative programs for everyone.
Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.