Community celebrates students’ cultures at Twin Peaks fair
Twin Peaks students and families sample different cultures’ foods, including Mexican chicharrons, at the school’s annual cultural night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
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Sixth-grader Alen Alibasic told the Twin Peaks community more about Bosnia and Herzegovina than the fact that they just hosted the 1984 winter Olympics. He talked about soccer, the countryside, the country’s blue and yellow flag and how it represents the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs and proudly displayed lace work made by his grandmother, Sada Alibasic.
“There’s more to Bosnia than people realize,” he said. “It’s just not a country in ruin. People don’t know about the good times there.”
Alen and his classmates had displays at the school’s fourth annual Culture Night on Jan. 26. There were about 15 displays from countries in five continents, most representing the students’ country or heritage. Food, music, flags, sports team memorabilia and other items of the cultures were on display.
“We asked families of students to come and share their culture with the rest of us,” said Paige Janzen, Parent-Teacher Association Culture Night coordinator. “We have about one-third of our student body from other countries so our students learn a lot by getting to know each other’s cultures. This will give our students a better understanding of those who are attending our school and draw us closer together and bring unity in our community.”
Sixth-grader Abraham Villalobos was born in the United States, but his mother, Adriana Perez, came from Venezuela.
Abraham knows about Venezuelan music, cooking, baseball, the flag, handmade crafts and even the country’s famous Angel Falls, which is the highest in the world at more than 3,000 feet, but he has yet to visit his mother’s country.
“We celebrate my country and he knows my country’s culture,” Perez said. “It’s important to know his background. But he also knows what it was like for me to grow up there and how it wasn’t safe for me to have a family there so that’s why we moved here. I’d like to take him there once it’s safe.”
Sixth-grader Briskenia Santiago and her ninth-grade sister, Alondra, who attends Cottonwood High, spent an hour making chicharrons to give out at the Culture Night.
“It was fun to make those and Mexican candy for my classmates to see what it tastes like,” Briskenia said. “It’s a new experience for them.”
Third-grader Kitione Olive and his fifth-grade brother, Lehi, teamed up with their uncle Hagoth Katoa to talk about making their own Tongan clothing from koa trees.
“Tongans strip the bark from the tree, then pound it flat and in thin strips,” Katoa said. “We’d use ashes and baby oil to ink the cloth.”
Kotoa said he hasn’t actually pounded the bark, but he has inked it and wants to show his nephews how to do it to keep the custom alive in his family.
“There’s a lot of customs we brought to America with our family, but we don’t want to lose sight of our heritage,” he said.
The family recently held a traditional funeral for their great uncle and had photos from that occasion on display as well as some traditional houses.
“Families build houses out of coconut trunks and banana leaves and use ropes to tie them together,” Kitione said.
Kotoa said the boys’ grandfather was well respected and was asked to grow food for the royal family.
“We show great respect to our royals and still do. We have land that was given to our family by the royal family and the only way to get land is to pass it down from your father. We came here for religion and education, but still have our ties to our native country,” he said.