Multilingual Heritage Showcase

Multilingual Heritage Showcase

WHITEWATER, WI — Whitewater is home to a culturally rich and diverse population. Whitewater and the surrounding community gathered to celebrate this cultural diversity as the Whitewater Unified School District hosted the first annual Multicultural Heritage Showcase on Saturday, May 6 from 4-6:30 pm at Whitewater High School. Over 250 guests attended to celebrate and enjoy art, music, food, and performances that represented a variety of cultures and ethnicities of the community. Over 50 students, staff and community members shared their cultural heritages and traditions and customs from around the world with neighbors and friends through song, dance, poetry, and artwork.   

The evening began at 4pm with socializing and sampling food representative of countries and cultures of Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. Attendees were invited to view art submitted by local community artists and students of the Whitewater Unified School District. A mural on the wall invited children and adults to “graffiti” words and drawings that represented their cultural histories, heritages, and experiences. During the social time, music was played by the local band, Helia, in their first on-stage performance as an up-and-coming rock band.

Socializing was followed by live entertainment. Masters of Ceremony, WHS students Eduard Jiron Betanco and Alex Vazquez Martinez, welcomed the audience into the auditorium through introductions in both English and Spanish. The ceremony began with the presentation of the flags by the St. John’s Northwestern Academy’s Color Guard followed by two more songs by Helia. Next, the recitation of the well-known Nicaraguan modernismo poem, “A Margarita Debayle”, written by Rubén Darío, was performed in its original language, Spanish. Whitewater Middle School dance group, Pinoleras, made up of students honoring Nicaraguan and Mexican heritages, jointly performed “Polka Cumbia”, a “baile folklórico”, with traditional dance steps and costumes. Three WHS students continued the performance in singing the multicultural and multilingual pieces by Russian, German, and English composers. The dance duo “Nicaragua Mía”, then performed a traditional Nicaraguan dance to the song “La Flor de Sacuanjoche”. The Sacuanjoche flower is the national flower of Nicaragua and a symbol of strength, love, and cultural perpetuity. 

To complete the triad of traditional latin dances represented in the showcase, the WHS group Alma Pinolera, a Nicaraguan dance group of WHS students, gave a choreographed performance complete with twirling skirts and hats. The dance performed was an homage to Mayan, Mestiza, and Aztec cultures. The outfits donned by the dancers included imagery of Nicaragua, representing Nicaraguan history, legends, and battles. To follow, a group of young performers from Lincoln Elementary School took the stage next to perform a hula hoop dance routine to the song “Try Everything” by Shakira. The group shared with the audience the following message: "Try Everything means making mistakes is a good thing. We try hard things, stand up to our challenges, and don't give up.” Next to the stage was the Studio 84 Dance Theatre with members from Studio 84 and Dancing for Diversity.  Studio 84 is a non-profit community art studio and theater program with a "Creative Focus on the Abilities through the Arts" focused on the creative development of ability-diverse individuals. The group engaged the audience with stories told through dance. The final performance of the evening was a student performance by the Washington Multilingual Singers dedicated to Kelley Marotta, a beloved Kindergarten teacher at Washington Elementary who recently passed away. The group gave a bilingual performance and ended with an enthusiastic dance and uplifting sing-along with the audience. 

Themes of cultural diversity, perseverance, and community emerged from the evening. Community members, school district families, and local organizations and leaders came together to celebrate diversity and camaraderie in this first annual event. Whitewater Unified School District’s Superintendent Dr. Caroline Pate-Hefty reported of the event, “The Multicultural Heritage Showcase was the first of its kind at WUSD and drew over 250 of our families and community members to celebrate. I could not be more proud of the work that went into the celebration of diversity and inclusion for all of our students.” Organizers of the event, Jim McCulloch, WUSD Theater Director, and Terilyn Robles, WUSD Multilingual Services Coordinator, were also pleased by the audience turnout and community support for the event. “We are grateful for the school and community collaborations to make this event a success. Tonight we were able to experience cultural diversity- and celebrate it- through performance, art, food, and conversation,” said Robles. The district expressed gratitude to the performers, student volunteers, staff, and community, for their support of the event. They look forward to continuing the event and celebrating the community’s diverse heritages, cultures, and languages in next year’s showcase.