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Over 40 members of the Tampa community recently broke bread together to discuss how their diversity makes Tampa stronger. Organized by UnidosUS and hosted by local affiliate RCMA at RCMA Wimauma Academy, this event was one in a series of such events taking place across the country to bring people together at a time of unprecedented division and polarization.

Attendees each brought a dish that was meaningful to them, their family or their culture, and explained that dish to their new friends seated around the table. Guests included individuals from East Coast Migrant Head Start, Wimauma CDC and the Community Foundation of Tampa.

 “This country is about people coming together to be a stronger community and country,” said Gayane Stepanian, Executive Director of RCMA
Ansberto Vallejo, Supervisor for Career and Postsecondary Planning at Hillsborough county Public Schools brought pasta with garbanzo beans noting, “Since my family is mixed with American and Mexican culture, we make our own dishes and combine them. This pasta dish is a representation of my family. We’re like a salad with different types of colors, textures and flavors, here to be ‘unidos’ in this salad bowl we live in.”

Middle School student Yesenia Velasquez bought enchiladas. “They are special to me because when my mom was in Mexico, her mom would always be making them for her. Now I can picture my mom eating enchiladas and it’s a wonderful memory to have of her.”

 Salma Haidermota, a volunteer specialist at RCMA said that she never ventured into cooking because she knew she’d never be like her mother. When she moved to America, she had no choice but to start cooking and it was a total disaster. Her sister wrote all the family recipes and sent them to her and now she cooks. “Today, I made butter chicken. It hasn’t been in my family, but when I go to restaurants, I know people like ordering it. It reminds me of the Indian foods that can be part of the Mexican cuisine. To me, our dishes are both a total mixture of other cuisines,” she noted.

For more information on RCMA schools, visit www.rcma.org/charter_schools.html.