Aug 22, 2019

Castro, culture and ‘chapulines’

The official flag of Mexico was proudly displayed alongside red, green and white decorations as the scent of traditional Mexican cuisine made mouths water in Room 3212 of the Henry Madden Library on Tuesday.

The event, called “Nuestra Fiesta Mexicana,” was organized and put on by Dr. Alfredo Cuellar and students from his Spanish 129 class. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., students and faculty were invited to come together, eat chapulines (grasshoppers) and drink horchata, a popular cinnamonrice drink.

“We feel very proud of our background,” Cuellar said. “Most, if not all, of the students in the class come from a Mexican background.”

Cuellar and his students worked together to put on the event, preparing dishes and making the decorations. He said this event helps his students learn firsthand about teamwork, their culture and getting involved on campus.

“The month of September is a big month for Mexico,” Cuellar said, “which is why the event was so important to put together.”

One of the biggest milestones this month for the culture is Independence Day, established on Sept. 16, 1810, in the town of Dolores, Mexico, when Father Miguel Hidalgo announced to his congregation that he was taking up arms against the Spanish. The army swelled to thousands and moved to Mexico City, where soldiers stood their ground and declared the country’s independence.

Raymond Luna, a fifth-year Chicano studies major, said that he enjoys Cuellar’s class and feels that more students should take advantage of it. Most people have a basic idea of

Mexican culture and its contributions to society, but the class allows students to explore in-depth and hands-on, he explained.

Hearing the music at the event reminded Luna of his family in Southern California, and he said that while he thoroughly enjoyed it, it made him homesick.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this big, and then I found out who was going to be here,” Luna said.

The “who” he referred to was Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro and the Honorary Consul of Mexico, Vicente Sánchez Ventura.

Castro and Ventura were acknowledged and thanked by Cuellar and the students for taking the time from their busy schedules to attend the event.

Both guests of honor were greeted with much enthusiasm when they arrived around 12:30 p.m. In between enjoying various traditional dishes such as sweet bread, Jarritos, spicy candies and flautas, the special guests mingled with students and posed for photographs.

Castro tried chapulines for the first time, much to the amusement of students and attending faculty members.

Luna said he believes Castro will succeed greatly in his role as president of the university and also as a role model for the Hispanic community. His presence at the event and interactions with the students would help solidify that role, he pointed out.

“I think having a large Latino population on campus is going to help him a lot,” Luna said.

Luna isn’t the only student with high hopes for Castro and his role in the Hispanic community.

“Some of our expectations of [Castro] as president of Fresno State are those of working together with the community and the students to build a strong foundation to guide Fresno State students in general to success,” Luis Damian said.

Damian is the president of Club Austral, a campus organization founded by Fresno State Spanish majors in 2008.

The organization’s purpose is to promote cultural awareness of the Latin-American culture. The club works with the foreign language department to form an academic alliance whose primary function is to support club members and students in general according to expectations and needs.

“I hope that he could relate himself with the community and the difficult situation that most of us–the students–are facing,” Damian said.

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