La marinera

Celebrating Hispanic Cultures During Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month isn’t over until Oct. 15. If you haven’t scheduled any virtual or in-person events in observance of this celebration of Hispanic culture, it’s not too late.

Our latest Hispanic Heritage Month Meeting in a Box can provide plenty of learning materials and conversation starters, but what else do you fill an event or day of appreciation with? Don’t worry; we’re here to help with that too.

Here are 5 Hispanic cultural elements or activities to showcase this year.

1.    Enjoy some sancocho

If you’re doing in-person events, you’ll need some food. If not, you may just share a recipe and challenge your employees to make it themselves to share the fruits of their labor with their colleagues. As summer transitions to fall, a tasty treat to have is “sancocho.” There are many variations of this hearty stew across Hispanic cultures, with variations from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

The dish typically consists of a protein mixed with a blend of vegetables and spices that includes yam or yuca, onion, garlic, oregano, potato, cassava, corn, celery, taro, cabbage, cilantro, green banana and hot peppers. It’s often served with a bowl of rice, tostones (fried plantains) and bread.

2.    Learn some Marinera moves

Movements from this popular Peruvian dance vary depending on the region of Peru. It’s common at social gatherings and celebrations, which makes it common to see in Peruvian gatherings abroad as well. The origins of the dance are rooted in influences from Spanish fandango and zamacueca. Like many other dances in Hispanic cultures, the dance resembles the story of a couple’s flirtatious pursuit. Dancing to rhythms created by a guitar and Cajón drum or brass band, each partner dresses in embroidered clothing and uses a handkerchief to “tease” the other with graceful movements.

In Peruvian culture, there is an entire craft industry around the marinera, with embroidering, weaving, jewelry and hat-making all playing a part. Depending on your budget, you may be able to create a crafting activity for employees who would rather not dance.

3.    Tell some myths and legends

Every culture has its myths and legends, from the Loch Ness monster to sasquatch, werewolves and leprechauns of the world. Hispanic culture is no different, and cultural tales vary by country or region. In Nicaragua, for example, you might hear of El Cadejo, of which there are two, a good and evil version of the same beast. Both appear at night to travelers to either protect them on their journey or kill them. It appears in the form of a cow-sized shaggy dog with red eyes and goat’s hooves.

 

In Bolivia, the legend of the Silbaco bird tells the story of a man who transformed into a bird after becoming ill. Nothing could stop his metamorphosis into a large black bird with a high-pitched call that started as a whistling sound. Villagers named the sound Silbaco; legend has it that he retreated to the forest, never to be seen again, and only occasionally heard.

4.    Everyone loves dessert

alfajores for Hispanic Heritage Month
Alfajores are a type of cookie popular in Argentina.

Once your team has had their fill of sancocho, they will have hopefully left a little room for dessert. Argentina’s affection for dessert, or “postres,” can provide you with a plethora of sweet treats guaranteed to brighten up your day. A few to consider are the chocotorta, a chocolate cake made from chocolate cookies dipped in coffee and layered with dulce de leche and cream cheese. Cookies are always a favorite and alfajores are sure to please, consisting of two sweet cornstarch biscuits glued together with dulce de leche, coated with chocolate (white or dark), and covered with coconut. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a bit of flan, which is an egg-based custard with caramel sauce. If you want to give it a bit of an Argentine twist, it is often garnished with dulce de leche and a bit of whipped cream on the side.

5.    Create an art exhibit or organize a movie night

Hispanic cultures have given us some of the most significant artists in history. Among them, some incredible painters through the years have not only influenced generations of artists that followed but have actually helped shape Western culture as we know it today.

Names like Diego Velázquez Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Salvador Dalí offer a wide range of work to build a mock gallery around the workspace. If your workforce is still primarily remote, coordinate a virtual watch party to see films from directors like Pedro Almodóvar, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Aurora Guerrero.

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