published Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

International holiday

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Danielle Moore Rosalinda Miguel and her son Carmilo Izara, 2, receive a helping of yellow rice while at Plaza Comunitaria at the St. Andrews Center in Chattanooga. An early Thanksgiving meal was held so english language students and their families could have the opportunity to learn more about the holiday and how it is celebrated in the United States.

Spread across a large row of tables was a unique kind of Thanksgiving feast. Congris from Ecuador, sambusa from Somalia and tamales from Mexico were just three of the dishes.

“It’s going to be delicious,” said Adriana Gomec, a ninth-grade student from Mexico. “(I) want to try all the food.”

Many cultures came together Saturday night at the third annual International Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the East Ridge High School English for Speakers of Other Languages students and teachers.

Several students, including Adriana, were celebrating the American holiday for the first time.

All 53 of the students at East Ridge High School were invited along with their families to celebrate Thanksgiving and to share a dish from their country, said Alicia Hannah, an English teacher who helps organize the dinner.

“We try to (create) a Thanksgiving celebration for our international families,” Ms. Hannah said.

The classes are diverse with students representing countries from all over the world, including Somalia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.

Most of the work to organize the dinner is done by the students.

As her second Thanksgiving, Ishani Vyas, an 11th-grade student from India, said she enjoys helping bring students and families together as well as introducing them to American games.

But tasting all the different kinds of food is one of the best parts, she said. Her mom prepared two kinds of Indian dishes.

“We make spicy in our country,” she said. “That’s why I told my mom to make it a little spicy (here).”

Saturday’s Thanksgiving feast in the school’s library was not the first multicultural dinner this week.

Earlier this week, Mayli Mendez, a native of China, sat with her husband, José Mendez, and her 5-year-old son, Cristian, for a multicultural Thanksgiving dinner in the St. Andrews Center, a tradition of La Plaza Comunitaria.

Since La Plaza opened six years ago, English for Speakers of Other Languages’ students and those studying to get their GED certificate learn about Thanksgiving during their classes. They celebrate the American holiday by sharing dishes from their countries of origin.

Mrs. Mendez made a Chinese dish of vegetable fried rice for her husband, who is in the English classes, to share.

“This is the first time we come to the event,” she said. “It’s very good for the community to get to know each other.”

The Thanksgiving dinner consisted of the traditional turkey and pumpkin pies provided by Chattanooga State Community College, and dishes such as Cuban beans, Puerto Rican rice and Moro, a rice dish from the Dominican Republic.

“It’s important (to celebrate this day) so we don’t forget that this is a country where people can come from different places and still continue the tradition as the first group of immigrants did,” said Mirtha Jones, director of La Plaza Comunitaria.

About 10 different countries are represented in the college’s program, Mrs. Jones said.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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