“Brown, yellow, green, red, orange…” 4-year-old Yasmin Bicquac said as she plucked markers from the tabletop and added new streaks to the rainbow in her coloring book. Her small voice fought to be heard over the live Spanish folk music and occasional pop of a balloon animal.
Yasmin and many other children attended Clark’s seventh annual Latino Celebration on April 28 in Gaiser Student Center. The celebration combines the Latino holidays “El día de los niños,” the day of the child, and “El día de los libros,” the day of the book.
Alongside balloon animals and a coloring station, the event featured booths for face painting, flower making, a puppet show, a vocabulary game and more. Each child received a passport they could fill with stamps from each activity they attended. They could redeem the completed passport for a book written in both English and Spanish.
Clark Spanish professor Elizabeth Ubiergo has helped with the event every year. Even though the event has fun and games to celebrate the kids in the community, she said its focus is on education.
“[It’s] the importance of reading to your kids and how that helps them develop language skills, in one language or in two languages,” Ubiergo said. “Just 20 minutes a day of reading can improve their performance in kindergarten.”
Ubiergo said when the holiday is celebrated in Mexico, children play games all day, watch puppet shows and visit the library to obtain books. The Latino Celebration at Clark replicates this by providing activity booths and the opportunity to take home a free bilingual book.
Rosalba Pitkin, a program specialist from the Office of Diversity and Equity, said that free books are offered because Clark wants to nurture kids’ passion for reading and help them improve their skills.
The Office of Diversity and Equity not only sponsors the event each year, but Pitkin said it reaches out to schools, churches and stores to invite community
“Clark College is a community college, and it’s for the community, to work with the community,” said Pitkin. “I think if the kids start learning about this college, in the future probably, they are going to come to this college.”
Michelle Golder, the Special Projects & Activities Manager at Clark, said the event is significant because it focuses on quality time with children, reading and the exploration of different languages.
Golder said it benefits more than just the kids in the community. She hopes Clark students with Latino background can experience the celebration’s sense of acceptance and admiration of the Latino culture. She said it provides event-goers “a sense of togetherness.”
Felipe Montoya, a Clark Spanish instructor from Mexico City, has helped plan and organize the celebration in the past. He had 25-30 of his students volunteering at this year’s event.
His 7-year-old daughter attends El Puente Elementary, a bilingual school in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Montoya said it’s essential for kids to be submersed in multiple languages, so he’s been bringing his daughter to the Latino Celebration since she was 3.
“It’s a bridge between these two cultures,” Montoya said.
“The first time that she came, she met some of my students, and they’re all quite white,” Montoya said. “Her mouth was open because she couldn’t believe that white people could speak Spanish.”
Montoya said he hopes the celebration teaches children not to be embarrassed about speaking Spanish.
“`The kids that speak Spanish, they see other people that want to learn the language, so they don’t feel ashamed of speaking Spanish. It’s a beautiful language,” said Montoya. “It’s okay to speak another language; it’s okay to be different.”