Tag Archives: Venezuela

Venezuela to the U.S. – Home, Food, and the Little Things in Life – The North Star Reports – by Maria Olivares. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Venezuela to the U.S. – Home, Food, and the Little Things in Life – The North Star Reports – by Maria Olivares. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Chocolate_with_churros
[Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churro#mediaviewer/File:Chocolate_with_churros.jpg%5D

Life is in the little details, or so the saying goes. We go about our day thinking about bigger and brighter things—when the next paper is due, where we are going to meet for a date, what we are having for dinner—and often times overlook that which is foundational to a sense of normalcy. We ignore the small things that make our life ours. Try to think about it: what is one small thing that, if absent, would make your day feel off? Maybe it is patterned duct tape, maybe it is the salty smell of the ocean carried by the wind through your window, maybe it is the secret ingredient your mom uses for that special dinner you love. For me, it is churros.

Churros are fried pastries that originated in Spain. They are elongated and thin and have ridges because when they are made, the dough is funneled into an oil-filled pan through a baking sleeve that has a star-shaped nozzle. Churros are topped with sugar or dipped in caramel or chocolate. Some people like to roll them in cinnamon or drink them with hot cocoa and coffee for breakfast or snack time. These pastries are usually sold in churrerias or from street carts in Spain and Latin America. In my country, Venezuela, we have specific stores dedicated to selling churros and I, as a child, used to visit them occasionally with my sister and my mother.

I wasn’t a big fan of churros growing up. While I enjoyed them, they were a rarity for me and did not form part of my home culture. It was just one more store we passed by the mall that sold yummy things—a business with the magical power to make that dessert that my mother and I once or twice tried to make but had seared in oil. Churros were just…there.

When I moved to the Duluth, Minnesota for college, churros were the last thing on my mind. I was too distracted by all the novelty the United States could provide: stocked shelves at the supermarket, the sense of safety going around town at any time of day, and brightly-colored aisles devoted to M&M’s, Reese’s, and other candies that were foreign and rare to me. Starting college did not allow for much time to think about churros either, and so two years came and went with churros only coming up in conversation maybe twice when speaking to other international students about how different life in Duluth is compared to home and how sometimes we miss the simple pleasures of feeling a supermarket is yours instead of feeling relegated to an ethnic food section.

One fateful day, my friends and I made plans to meet for dinner at the cafeteria of our college. I went down the stairs and basked in the smell of melted cheese and toasted corn and, thinking it’d be Taco Tuesday, I strolled in and there they were: a plate of inch-long, cinnamon-covered churros. They were toasty and brown and warm and I could not help but tear up when I looked at them. It was like a long-lost lover reunion with a small mountain of doughy deliciousness. Ecstatic, I told all my friends. I told the other people in line. I came up to the person in charge of the cafeteria and hugged them. I was in Duluth, Minnesota, where the Hispanic isles carried Taco Bell desserts, and I had found a homely dish that, though quite different from what I was used to at home, came close enough to the original to click in my soul.

That night I had about twelve churros and a tummy ache, but I also realized how important these little desserts were to me. It was not only about food, or nostalgia. It was a matter of representation. Seeing a piece of home after such a long time in such a remote place was like a validation of my existence. It was a symbol of lazy weekend afternoons with my family strolling in a tiny mall; of hunting to find the ingredients for recipes when milk, eggs, and sugar are scarce; of the life I used to live. Seeing it on campus, my new home, was proof that I had once led that life. It was a reminder of how we can live comfortably in bubbles of reality we have created, forgetting or not realizing that the little details in our lives make them what they are or that people from other places don’t have the same little details or even big details like shelter, water, and safety.


Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twelve — Latin Life: What it means to be part of (Latin) American Culture, by Maria Olivares Boscan

The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twelve — Latin Life: What it means to be part of (Latin) American Culture, by Maria Olivares Boscan

Latin Life: What it means to be part of (Latin) American Culture

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Latin America is known mainly because of its food, its dances, and its poverty. In the shadow of its more successful brother, North America, it seems but a collection of countries who strive to mold themselves in the shape of powerful northern counterpart –and often fail. As a Venezuelan, I have first-handedly experienced some of the physical and economic insecurity, the political polarity, and the scarcity in a struggling Latin American nation. I have seen the poverty, the classism, and the effects of a global economy on an oil-dependent country. I have seen and suffered some human right abuses. And it all felt normal to me.

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It took a trip out of South America to realize the true nature of the life I led. True, I knew other countries experienced abundance, and that their lack of oil led them to diversify their exports –but that did not mean I understood why some found it shocking to go to a super market and find it half-empty or to have so much and such subsidized oil that it was cheaper to fill up a tank than to buy water.  I did not understand why it was such a big deal that radio stations were censored and shut down little by little, why piracy of goods whose original versions would not see our soil was wrong, or why it was surprising to have cheap high-quality hair salons. All that was normal to me. And, because it was normal, I did not see it.

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I was conditioned, like many other Latinos, to think that my country was not good enough. I was taught that we were poor; that we were lazy; that we were opportunistic. My people weren’t in the media I consumed –next to no Latinos in Charlie Brown, Harry Potter, and Legend of Zelda,- and the four seasons seemed more natural to me than the rain-dry cycle I observed at home. Our politicians were corrupt and inept, and our citizens ignorant. Our streets were too dirty, our roads too bumpy, our service poor. Naturally, with this narrow-minded, defeatist mindset, I was blinded. I did not see past the pollution and into the beauty of the raw, tropical landscapes I could see whenever I left home –which wasn’t often, due to the fact that the chances of being victim of a crime, lethal or not, seemed too high to risk it. I ignored the fact that I had a pleasant climate, that I was surrounded by hardworking people, and that our women, though advertised by the international community as some of the most beautiful in the world, could also be some of the strongest. I did not see –and did not miss,- my people’s strength, resilience, and sense of humor until I was gone.

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When I came to the United States, having reached the dream of countless Latino youths who look to a better future, I woke to my own sense of inadequacy. I re-evaluated my experiences and concluded that as a country –and maybe even as a continent,- Venezuela and South America in general may give itself less credit than it deserves. We tend to under-appreciate our own advancements and our own strength. Living with the adversity left behind by colonial times and with third world problems, we have had to learn to improvise, to problem-solve creatively, and to endure. If there is no sugar, we use honey. If there is no honey, we use panela, or raw sugar cane. If there is not even that, we will have our coffee –whatever brand we can find,- black. We are Latin Americans and I am Venezuelan. Some of my people play baseball with a thin pipe and a bottle cap and make it to the Big Leagues. Some of my people raise big families on a salary that does not raise as fast as our 30% inflation rate. Some of my people dream big, and others are grounded in reality. We are diverse and we are unique. We are Venezuelan, Latino, and American.

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For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/

For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world.  We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Filed under Maria Olivares Boscan, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang