HASTINGS — Hastings residents were able to get a taste of cultures from across the world at an event Sunday.
Hastings College, along with the Hastings Multicultural Association and the Hastings YWCA, hosted the 10th annual cultural festival in the college’s Kiewit Gymnasium.
Moses Dogbevia, a Hastings College chemistry professor who served as one of the event’s organizers, said the purpose was to celebrate various cultures present in Hastings.
“I am from West Africa and Ghana. When I came here, it occurred to me that the town has a lot of people from different countries,” he said. “But there was no single event that was meant to bring all the cultures that are represented in Hastings together. My thought process was to start this event as a way of bringing and showcasing the various cultures.”
Dogbevia said about 15 countries were represented at Sunday’s event. Each booth provided food from their respective countries to event attendees.
“We have mostly Latin American cultures, such Mexico, Guatemala and Columbia,” he said. “Then we have some from Europe, such as France. We have cultures from all over the world. It is a good thing to have people willing to participate in this event.”
The cultural festival also featured booths from Asian countries such as China and Vietnam.
Juana Henriquez and her husband, David, both of Hastings, served papusas from their native country of El Salvador at their booth at the cultural festival Sunday. Through their son, Edwin Henriquez, the Spanish-speaking couple said they have made papusas in their household for years. This was their fifth year attending the festival.
The couple said they continue to attend the festival every year because “it is a lot of fun” and they enjoy interacting with attendees about their food and culture.
Maria Rubalcava of Hastings said she attended the cultural festival to serve food with a bunch of other people from Mexico. She said the booth itself was a blending of cultures, as a variety of cultures from different parts of Mexico were represented.
At the booth, Raquel Maar served mole and told those who sampled her food a little bit about it.
“I tell them it is spicy and that it is really good,” she said.
Maar said she has attended the cultural festival each of its 10 years. She said the people and the ability to get together with them for food and conversation is what keeps her coming back.
As part of their booth display, the group from Mexico put up an “ofrenda,” which is a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de Muertos celebration. Michael Morales of Hastings said, in the Mexican culture, the ofrenda is a way to honor and remember those who have fallen.
“This is a huge representation of southern Mexico,” he said. “It represents the culture that is shown in southern Mexico because it is part of some people’s religion.”
The display featured candles and flowers placed around picture frames that were set up on the display’s stands. Morales said it took three to four hours to set up the ofrenda, whereas it “takes the whole day” to do so in Mexico.
Dogbevia said one of the goals of the annual cultural festival is for attendees to approach people of different cultures outside of it, interact with them and learn more about their respective cultures.
“This is good way of engaging people from all backgrounds,” he said. “I think what I have come to notice is when you bring people together for other reasons apart from food, music or entertainment, people are hesitant. People have a fear because of maybe one or two experiences, so they are not willing to come up. But when you have an event like this that is focused on food, music and entertainment, people break their barriers.”
Dogbevia said the hope is to continue the cultural festival again next year and for another 10 years.