Cultural Diversity, Mexican Style / Diversidad Cultural, Estilo Mexico

Cultural diversity is one of the trademarks of my office. When I started working here in 1999, this was the office which housed all the cases for customers that needed interpreters. There were employes speaking 42 different languages! I was very impressed to see that many countries were represented at the office and was excited to start my career with the County in an environment where diversity is not only welcomed but one in which we are encouraged to share our backgrounds and culture - how wonderful!

From the celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, in January (the date varies depending on the lunar calendar), Black History Month in February, and the Cambodian/Lao Lunar New Year in April, to celebrating Philippines' Independence  Day in June and our own Independence day on the Fourth of July, my office fosters acceptance of all and unity among employees. Cultural diversity has been a major part of my personal and professional growth. I cherish all the things I can learn from my coworkers and also love to share my culture and traditions which is why this year, the Mexican-American employees organized a Second Annual Mexican Cultural Event this past September 10th. We were very happy to share a little bit of our culture through our exhibits, pictures, traditional vestments, music and, of course, delicious food.

This year our theme was food, so we had a representation of a Mexican mercado (market) in which we wanted to showcase produce from Mexico. We included fresh fruits and vegetables as well as herbs, spices and grains. Everyone could get an idea of what kind of foods can be found in a traditional Mexican mercado. The room decorations were traditional in Mexican festivities and the center pieces were also food inspired. We all wore with pride our traditional attire which is also part of our cultural heritage.

Above the mercado, we had a photo gallery of mouthwatering Mexican dishes prepared with ingredients from the market. Employees were able to browse through the pictures and see how many of those dishes they could recognize. We invited everyone to find something interesting and to make sure they look for it in their next visit to a Mexican restaurant or their next trip to Mexico.

Our menu was a delicious taco trio that included birria de res, a beef stew made with a red sauce of dried chili peppers and spices used since Pre-Hispanic times; second, a chicken stew made with a green sauce from fresh peppers and tomatillo, also legendary ingredients in Mexican cuisine; and the third choice was a vegetarian option, made with fresh zucchini, corn, onions and tomatoes. To enrich the flavor, we add herbs and top with queso fresco, a ranch style  Mexican cheese that is something you'll find in every Mexican kitchen. If people wanted to keep it strictly vegetarian, we suggested not to add cheese. As side dishes we had beans and the real pico de gallo made with fresh fruit. And to wash it all down, we had aguas frescas, a typical every day drink made with fruit and/or vegetables. This time our drinks were made with three different flavors; spinach, hibiscus flower, and rice - all very delicious! After the meal, everyone enjoyed a Mexican style rice pudding – it was the perfect dessert!

In Mexico, we celebrate the day of the dead. Every year in November, we invite our departed loved ones to come back and celebrate with us. We build an Altar de Muertos in their honor. The altar is made up with pictures of our loved ones, with artifacts, flowers and the food they used to enjoy when they were alive. This is  another great tradition in our culture that we shared in one of our exhibits.

We also had displays showcasing the crafts and materials used in the different states of Mexico; copper, wood, silver and others. Also, a display representing influential people of Mexican descent and another one with the Aztec, the Mayan and other great civilizations of Mexico. And, of course, a display with pictures of our closer ancestors and of us. This year we have about 50 Latin-American employees in the office. Most of us are from Mexico but we have representations from Chile, Honduras, Cuba, Argentina, Peru and Dominican Republic. They were our special guests - everyone was!

We had other exhibits; a table showcasing toys that are enjoyed by kids and grownups alike throughout Mexico - most of us played with these toys while growing up. Another fun thing we had was the table with Mexican candy. These are favorite treats for Mexican kids but I know of one or two adults in the office who will kill for these treats! 

We displayed the history of chocolate, which was a gift from Mexico to the world and an inspiration for our offerings and dessert contest. This year the invitation was to submit a dessert that included Mexican chocolate in the preparation. We counted several delicious entries which were carefully rated and we handed out prizes to the winners.

While everyone enjoyed their meal we had a demonstration on how to make corn tortillas which was another gift native Mexicans brought to the world. This exhibit consisted of explaining the process of turning dried corn into masa and then into the wonderful homemade tortillas everyone loves. It was a fun thing enjoyed by many who had never seen this process before.

Then we allowed a little time for everyone to enjoy the food while we showed a video with music and pictures from Mexico. And later we had a live performance delighting everyone with a traditional Mexican song.  We welcomed everyone at the photo booth where they took pictures with their unit or by themselves.

Overall, our Second Annual Mexican Cultural Event was an amazing representation of our food and traditions that everyone enjoyed. And I couldn't be happier to share this with my coworkers. I am also very proud of my compatriots who help put this celebration together. They showed pride in our heritage and were eager to share with everyone, plus, they all looked amazing in the traditional vestments of our country - they are beautiful, talented and wonderful exponents of our culture. Thanks to all who made this a fun and exciting event!

Many thanks to Lorraine and Ericka who provided me with some of these pictures.