Mar 312011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

CSU students aim to unite the Hispanic community Friday through cuentos, manualidades, canciones y películas –– or stories –– crafts, songs and movies in Spanish that celebrate the culture.

The event, called “Noche en Familia”, occurs monthly and will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. at Fort Collins’ Main Library, which typically attracts 100 youngsters and their parents –– a number that has steadily increased
since its start in September of 2009.

Organized by Fort Collins group Rincón de Cuentos –– started in mid-2008 and comprised of CSU students, professors, El Centro, local libraries and food banks –– the event aims to promote “being completely bilingual, bicultural and therefore being better professionals,” said Professor Maura Velazquez-Castillo, a senior member of the group.

Central to the concern of Rincón de Cuentos and what partially inspires “Noche en Familia,” is the observation that the Hispanic community loses its connection with their language by the third generation, according to Velazquez-Castillo.

A 2006 study by the research group population council found that the third generation of Mexican immigrants has a Spanish-language retention rate of 17 percent and just 5 percent in the fourth generation.

“By involving the university and university students in this public use of the Spanish language in things other than academics, we believe we are validating the language publicly,” she said. “And we are helping the
Hispanic community celebrate their heritage rather than be ashamed of it or not let their need for assimilation to the dominant let them forget their language.”

Irene Romsa, a librarian, head of outreach for Poudre River Libraries and founder of a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in Guatemala, said this is not the first time CSU students have helped staff the event.

Because higher level Spanish courses at the university have increasingly emphasized narrative based language learning, students “feel a bit more assured to go out and perform for an audience,” she said and have been participating more in “Noche en Familia” as a result.

The event, while pertaining to Hispanic culture, is intended for anyone interested in learning more about people around them, said Rich Salas, associate director of El Centro, the Latino cultural center at CSU.

“The tip of the iceberg is food, and all that stuff. But below that, we start learning about our traditions, and our culture, and our values and we see how much common ground and similarities we have amongst all human
beings,” he said. “And I think that’s a thing of beauty.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

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