Danbury puts Hispanic heritage on the table

MARBLEHEAD Samantha Idrogo watched her classmates shape tortilla dough with a trained eye, showing t
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010



Samantha Idrogo watched her classmates shape tortilla dough with a trained eye, showing them how to flop the dough from hand to hand to create a pancake.

For many of the students in Sherri Roth's Spanish III class, this activity was an opportunity to try something new.

But for Idrogo, making tortillas is part of her heritage.

Each year, Danbury High School celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month to educate students about Latin American culture.

Danbury High School houses a small community of Latino students who come from Mexican and Puerto Rican backgrounds.

Idrogo, a freshman who moved to Marblehead with her family this spring, said her parents are Mexican and celebrate many cultural traditions. She enjoys helping her mom create meals like tamales on special occasions.

"They're doing good," she said of the student's tortilla-making late last week. "Like we do at home."

Roth said each year she puts together lessons and activities to celebrate the culture, food and music of Latin America.

"We are very fortunate to have about a half-dozen students who are Latino here, even through it's a small community," she said.

In September she took a group of students to the University of Akron to see what kind of multicultural opportunities await them in college. The students sat in on a college-level Spanish class and took a campus tour.

"The diversity is amazing," said Taylor Brown, a junior who went on the trip. "Everyone is accepted. They don't discriminate."

Brown said the university trip and lessons learned during Hispanic Heritage Month have taught her a lot about a culture she was fairly unfamiliar with.

"I think I'll view other people's cultures way differently," she said. "I'll have a lot more respect."

Classmate Troy Hammersmith, a senior, said he also enjoys learning about Latin American culture -- especially when it involves traditional cooking.

"I just think it's cool getting to learn about the culture," he said. "I like cooking the food and learning about the different traditional meals they have."

He said his favorite dishes are homemade salsa and enchiladas.

Roth said this month the students will also learn how to salsa dance and will cap the celebration off with a fiesta.

Libby Flores, a sophomore, said she thinks it's important for her fellow students to learn about her culture. Flores and her older sister, Allegra, a senior at the school, also come from a Mexican background.

"My dad is full Mexican and my grandparents live in Port Clinton, so we always make food with them," she said.

She said she and her sister are proud of their heritage. Their dad and grandmother have come to Hispanic Heritage Month events in the past to assist the students in traditional cooking.

"Cultural diversity is nice to be around," Libby Flores said. "It should just be valued to a high extent."

The students of Hispanic heritage put together a display each year at the school to share their background.

This year's display features Mexican and Puerto Rican flags, postcards, beads and pottery.

"We have a lot of artifacts, sombreros and dolls to let the school know what we are all about and where we come from," said Allegra Flores.

Allegra Flores said she thinks the month-long celebration of Latin America helps students at the school better understand her culture.

She said she was grateful to Roth for spearheading cultural exploration.

"It gives people a better understanding besides just talking to us," she said.