Community perspective - Casa de Cultura

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By The Staff

Casa de Cultura is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Our goal is to create a cultural environment in Northern New Mexico with the main focus on youth development.

When we realized that cultural erosion was a fact of life, Casa members proposed a strategy to re-establish a culturally centered community versus a consumer center community. This has become the centerpiece of the organization.

Our belief is that culture can be a powerful tool for organizing people for community development. Once we understood our mission we set out to create programs that reflected our goals.

Casa de Cultura’s record of achievement is extensive:

• A health conference in conjunction with New Mexico Highlands, Luna Community College, Health Centers of Northern New Mexico to discuss health issues, diabetes, veterans problems, and mental health.

• Four film series in collaboration with NMHU and Las Vegas Committee for Peace and Justice involving students and community.

• The first annual Dia de Los Muertos Art Exhibits, co-sponsored with Highlands University Art Department involving nine elementary and secondary schools in participation with United World College students and NMHU students. The second annual art exhibit for Dia de Los Muertos will take place Oct. 29 through Nov. 10 at Burris Hall at Highlands.

• Computers for Kids has donated, to date, 84 computers to disadvantaged students for the express purpose of improving academic performance.

• In support of the Las Vegas Land Grant and the King Stadium Renovation Committee, Casa de Cultura organized a star-gazing event at King Stadium with several professional astronomers and state and federal parks services. Along with that, Casa organized classroom presentations for about six schools, and a total of 300 students and teachers participated. The night of the event was attended by 250 children and their parents.

• Casa was also successful in writing a grant which will assist the Land Grant in assessing the structural condition of King Stadium.

• Currently, Casa is putting the final touches on a mural design, which will be painted at El Centro Family Health Clinic.

• Casa continues to recruit students to the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba. Six New Mexican students are studying medicine there under full scholarship with the promise of returning to New Mexico to work in underserved communities. Luna Community College has agreed to work with recruits in high school to prepare them in basic science.

• Casa member Lee Einer is currently teaching a continuing education class on water storage and water use in collaboration with Luna.

• Noche de La Trova (talent night at Joe’s Ringside Inn) was presented free to the community, featuring local talent ranging from individual singers, musicians, jazz and mariachi bands. The objectives: to give young and old performers an opportunity to present the community with cultural outlets without cost to them. Over four months, 38 groups and individuals performed.

• Other projects are forthcoming.

• A Youth Health Education Project, where middle school and high school students are trained to help educate their peers in lifestyle choices. Hopefully, we shall be working with both school districts to make this strategy a reality.

• To create a culture of exercise, Casa will be asking the schools to establish a jump rope program in the elementary schools and a step-dancing program in middle school and high school. In addition, we hope that we can start a ballroom dance program in all the schools.

• The establishing of youth and adult choral groups and theatrical programs and other performing arts are part of what Casa believes will contribute greatly to the youth in our program, Youth Development through the Arts.

• School children are now being recruited to begin a historical drama group, which will present dramatic reading of historical events and social depictions of prose and poetry. These readings are calculated to educate our community about events which have contributed to the economic, social, and political condition of people in our community and in others, nationwide. The students will be preparing materials related to the centennial activities commemorating statehood in the year 2012.

• Others are in the planning stages. We have been very busy, but we have had the good fortune of recruiting scores of volunteers who have come forward to assist our efforts.

At 3 p.m. this coming Sunday, at the Travelers Caf (Tapetes de Lana) on the Plaza, Casa de Cultura is pleased to announce a community meeting to report on the progress of our endeavors.

Casa aspires to foster trust and cohesion among diverse ethnic and social groups by participation in educational and cultural activities. In addition to providing the community with a comprehensive report, citizens will be asked to join the organizational as members, volunteers, donors and supporters of Casa de Cultura.

We will introduce board members and advisory board members. People are encouraged to ask questions and offer suggestions as to how to expand Casa’s activities.

Miguel Angel is executive director of Casa de Cultura. He may be reached at 505-454-6771.