With the closing of International Education Week, Gannon University continues to offer students opportunities to learn about other cultures as close as the classroom. One of these chances is presented in a course scheduled for next semester that will focus on Latino culture as popular culture sees it.
Carlos Mamani, Ph.D., an associate professor of the foreign language program and instructor of the class, said the idea for the class arose in the need to teach beyond language.
“We saw a need to inform students about Latinos and their culture, since they are the biggest and youngest minority in the country,” he said. The class covers a basic base for knowledge in the culture by focusing on themes like Latinos in Hollywood and sports.
“This lets students see how society saw them in films [throughout history],” Mamani said. “Another thing we go through is sports. I don’t think a lot of baseball teams would be the same without Latino players. They’ve had such an impact on the ‘American’ pastime.”
Besides films and sports, Mamani plans to teach about Latino popular culture through holidays and politics as well.
“They won’t see the literature but popular culture,” he said. “Some holidays are big here, like Cinco de Mayo, but we’ll also look at days like All Saints Day and All Souls Day, where people celebrate by going to the cemetery. There’s a connection between the living and the dead [celebrated] and they remember their ancestors as well.”
Mamani said the hardest part in teaching the course is presenting the material.
“The challenge is trying to teach Latino culture as one, homogenous group when it is not,” he said. “It’s hard to represent such a big group while showing all the differences [within it].”
While the course is not in session until the spring semester, Mamani’s Spanish conversation class participated in International Education Week. One of the weekly events offered a seminar where student groups presented on health issues in Spanish- speaking countries like Cuba and the Caribbean.
“I think the kids there were able to learn something new,” he said. Some of the topics included how people with disabilities are treated, the educational opportunities they receive and access to healthcare for Latino Americans.
Chris Difiore, a sophomore Spanish language and literature major, said studying Spanish with Mamani has pointed out cultural differences.
“It lets you learn that our culture and beliefs are not the same,” he said. “Every culture has its own way of doing things.”