Silverthorne event teaches elementary students, families about traditions of other countries |

Silverthorne event teaches elementary students, families about traditions of other countries

Mexican folk dancing and other entertainment will teach Summit County elementary students and their families about different cultures at Celebrations Around the World on Thursday, Nov. 21, in Silvethorne.
Special to the Daily |

Summit County fourth-graders will have the opportunity to learn about other cultures at Celebrations Around the World at the Silverthorne Pavilion on Thursday, Nov. 21.

During the school day, students from all six local elementary schools will take a field trip to the pavilion to learn about clothing, currency, customs, food and other elements of culture from countries including Poland, China, Honduras, France, Mexico and Peru. From 6 to 8 p.m., children can return with their parents and families to visit the booths of the different countries, sample ethnic foods and experience entertainment from different cultural groups.

Overcoming obstacles

One of the acts that will provide entertainment for the evening is Capoeira Luanda, of Denver. Capoeira is a mixture of martial arts and dance created by slaves brought from Africa to Brazil by the Portuguese, said Slade Weidl, a member of Capoeira Luanda.

“It was created as a way to disguise their martial arts,” he said. “They hid it under a dance so they could use it later when the time arose that they could escape and use it to get away.”

Slavery was later abolished, but capoeira remained illegal because it was practiced by former slaves, a large number of whom became street people due to continuing oppression by those who refused to hire them into the work force.

“So it ended up being a vagabond sport,” Weidl said. “And it was looked down upon in Brazil; they would use it as a way to arrest people. And sometimes, shady things would happen.”

In order to avoid being easily tracked by authorities, practitioners of capoeira adopted nicknames to conceal their true identities, a tradition that continues in Capoeira Luanda. Weidl, who goes by the capoeira name Vampiro, said presenting capoeira at Celebrations Around the World brings a message of empowerment to Summit County elementary students.

“It teaches cultural awareness and being healthy, but it also teaches you a way to overcome,” he said. “That’s the essence of the art — to overcome whatever is holding you down, whether it’s oppression by society of anything that’s holding you back. It teaches you how to push through that and get where you want and become a better person.”

Passport to learning

Booths dedicated to individual countries will be peppered around the pavilion on Thursday evening, complete with cultural artifacts and ethnic foods to sample.

Dawn Banas, who is in charge of the Polish booth, said she will be displaying traditional Polish pottery, children’s dance outfits, a Polish flag and some of the country’s currency, as well as a poster explaining different aspects of the Polish culture, books and wooden plates made in a mountain town in Poland that she said is much like Breckenridge. Banas also will be serving traditional Polish dumplings, called pierogis.

“We’ve got a really significant Polish population here in Summit County,” she said. “When the kids come through the booths or pass the table, there’s always one kid who’s Polish or his grandpa’s Polish, and they’re familiar. It’s interesting for kids to relate to that and identify with their heritage or a neighbor’s heritage.”

Banas’ husband was born in Poland, and she was disappointed that there wasn’t a booth at the event for Poland, so she requested to add one three years ago. She said the children get excited when they can identify with the culture, but they are also intrigued with just learning about places that are different from where they live.

“We teach them how to say hello in Polish and show them the Polish money,” she said. “They’re always interested in seeing the map of Poland, and where it is on the map and where it is in the world. A lot of the kids bring through these stapled booklets that they’ve made, and they’ve written ‘passport’ on the outside, so when they come through they’ll write down one fact that they’ve learned at the booth, so that’s kind of neat to see.”

Uniting Summit County cultures

Ethel Lazarte has organized a group of eight Peruvian girls to teach students about their country at the Peru booth.

“Some of them are going to cook, some are going to dance, and probably four of us are going to explain to the kids the currency and everything about Peru,” she said.

Because Summit County has such a diverse population, Lazarte said it’s important that children of many ethnic groups know about other cultures around the world.

“There’s so much difference in culture, history, heritage that a person who is born in the United States or Chile, Asia or Africa can learn,” she said. “There’s totally different food and history, different cultures and different traditions, and it’s nice that the children start knowing about the world around them, all the different cultures, so they can learn from them.”

Members of the Mexican community are very excited to participate in Celebrations Around the World, said Leti Diaz, who will be heading up the Mexico booth and also is part of the group that will perform jarabe tapatio, a folk dance from Jalisco, Mexico.

“We’re going to perform in the morning for the schools and also in the evening,” Diaz said. “I think this event really helps to understand cultural things better.”

Last year, the Mexican group presented the culture of one state of Mexico, and this year, they will present a different state to teach the students and their families about a different part of the country.

“There’s going to be Mexican food, and a lot of Mexican people in the community are helping — volunteering, cooking — everyone is excited to show a little bit about our culture,” Diaz said.

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