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CHMS celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

The Charles Henderson Middle School Spanish Club celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month Thursday with a luncheon hosted by several moms who cooked authentic foods from Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Karla Johnson, Spanish teacher, said Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually September 15 through October 18 and the luncheon was an opportunity for the students to experience Hispanic foods that are not familiar to them and to learn more about the Hispanic culture.

“At one time, Spain and Mexico claimed almost two-thirds of what is now our country,” Johnson said. “So, the Hispanic culture is a part of America’s culture.”

The moms – Aileen Gardiner, Martha Rogers, Alicia Leverette, Felishia Medevous Collins and Raeshun Meadows – prepared a lavish lunch of Arroz con Leche, or rice with milk; Carne Guisada, beef stew; Arroz Blanco, white rice; Arroz con Pollo, rice with chicken; and Arrroz con Gandures, rice with green pigeon peas. The beverage of the day was Sangria, a tea-based fruity drink with sliced fruit and, for dessert, the moms served Flan, which is a sweet, sweet pudding that is sliced and topped with an equally sweet syrup.

Following lunch, Gardiner spoke briefly to the students about her native Puerto Rico.

“I have been in the United States 19 years and 16 of those in Alabama,” Gardiner said. “My husband was in the military and stationed at Fort Rucker.”
Gardiner said she has adjusted to the Alabama way of life and reminded the students that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States.

“Puerto Rico is a commonwealth,” she said. “We have the freedom to come and go here and have the same benefits. “

Gardiner said Puerto Rico, with its mountains, waterfalls and tropical rainforest is a beautiful island.

“Puerto Ricans love to party and have a good time,” she said. “Puerto Ricans are very expressive. We use our hands when we talk. We cannot stand still. If you come to the island, even if we don’t know you, we will hug and kiss you like you are family. Puerto Ricans love family and they love food and all food is filled with flavor.

With more than 3 million people, the island is crowed and the traffic is hectic.

“The beaches are beautiful and the weather is always warm,” Gardiner said. “You can go to the beach every day.”

Gardiner said most people speak English because it is taught beginning in kindergarten.

“When students get into college, the books are written in English and in the films, English is spoken,” she said, adding that even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans speak English, they have maintained and are preserving their Hispanic culture. “And I am so happy about that.”