Workshops enhance understanding of Hispanic culture

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Anna Marie Lux
Saturday, May 31, 2014

ROCK COUNTY—Marta Rodriguez-Hubert knows that food can cultivate awareness and open the heart.

She begins workshops on Hispanic life by inviting people to sample bread. Most know tortillas are integral to the food of Mexico, but they do not know how important traditional breads are to the family meal.

Marranitos, conchas and other treats recently filled a table at Janesville's Rock County Courthouse. Almost 30 people came to sharpen their cultural competency and began by tasting bread.

“Breaking bread is a sign of peace,” Marta said. “We may all come from different grains, but we are all of the human race.”

She fondly recalls sharing sweet bread with her Hispanic family. Marta is bilingual family-living coordinator with the UW Extension, Waukesha County.

She has led several Rock County workshops on the same topic. “Walk One Hour in My Shoes” is designed to enhance understanding of Hispanic culture.

Most recently, Marta and Yolanda Pena of UW Extension, Walworth County presented the interactive workshop. Pena is coordinator of the county's Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program.

Marta and social worker Fred Garcia will offer another UW Extension-sponsored workshop in Beloit on Wednesday, June 4.

A decade ago, Marta helped develop the workshop in response to the growing Hispanic population.

“Many agencies were having issues about how to communicate with the Hispanic population,” she recalls. “We needed to break down barriers.”

The workshops have reached more than 1,000 people, mostly in Wisconsin.

Marta helps people look at how their own cultures influence their beliefs.

“When you become more aware of your roots,” Marta said, “you begin the journey of understanding.”

She and Yolanda shared their personal stories.

Marta grew up in a Spanish-speaking family. Her mother had 10 children, who slept three to a bunk bed. Marta wanted to go to college, but her mother told her she could not leave the house until she was married.

Yolanda grew up in a small town in Columbia. She married an abusive man, who did not allow her to visit her family or go to college. Eventually, she fled with her two children. Her sister helped her come to the United States, where Yolanda learned English and earned a master's degree in community counseling.

Marta believes the workshops make a difference.

“Our evaluations show that they have helped a lot of people,” she said. “Many wish they would have learned these things earlier.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

Last updated: 8:06 am Saturday, May 31, 2014

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