A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A world of languages


International cuisine, dance performances, original poetry readings and live music intrigued students, causing a large crowd and a constant curiosity.

The World Language Fair welcomed students of all cultures to an international experience April 18, with various booths featuring different languages and information on study abroad programs hosted in the  Emeritus Plaza, the fair celebrated the cultural diversity of Santa Rosa Junior College, in theme of World Heritage Day.

Presented by the modern and classical languages  department and American Sign Language department, the event promoted the department’s new name “World Languages” for students enrolled in French, German, Spanish, Italian and American Sign Language classes.

The World Languages Fair Committee—Spanish professor Araceli Osorio and Dean of Language Arts and Academic Foundations Dr. Robert Holcomb,  invited two artistic and inspiring guests for the events. Cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz spoke April 18 and acclaimed Spanish poet Dr. Mariano Zaro April 20. Both with well-known work based in Los Angeles, each spoke to SRJC students about their experiences with cultural diversity, discrimination and their respective career pathways.

During the World Languages Fair festivities April 18, Zaro shared some of his favorite works. The Rio Honda College Spanish professor is known for his creative use of cultural expression in his poetry and his views on the importance of learning foreign languages.

“I never really took [poetry] seriously until I left Spain and came to California. I think by being in a different culture and environment [it] helped me see my writing from a different angle,” said Zaro.

It was in this foreign country that he grew to value the diversity in the cultures and languages of the world.

With his immersion in another language and culture, Zaro started believing person becomes a foreigner regardless of their self perception in their home country, and as a result of this immersion can reflect on the depth and meaning of their own identity.

“If a culture is precise, established and framed it is dead. It needs freedom. It needs friction. It needs that imbalance. It’s like dancing: you step on your partner’s territory, then they step on yours, and now you’ve created something new,” Zaro said. “There’s value in tradition, repetition and the admiration of your past, but if you only do that you’re putting the culture in a glass box.”

The importance of multilingualism in the country was echoed by the tone and ideas incorporated in the World Language Fair. Zaro said that while the United States is a melting pot of cultures, multilingualism does not always translate into schools. The duty falls on the communities, which he thinks should keep languages alive rather than letting them slowly be forgotten.

“Be daring to blend. The arts are a good place to start; to explore and even make mistakes,” Zaro said. “I think that it keeps cultures evolving and reflecting—incorporating things and  this keeps our cultures alive.”

On April 20, the Puente Program, Language Arts and Academic Foundations, as well as the SRJC Latino Faculty and Staff Association invited political cartoonist and writer  Alcaraz to present an interactive lecture. He talked about how he strives to make a difference with art and satire and encourages those still in school to not give up on educating themselves.

“I love drawing and expressing myself. I also love to talk about politics and to push back on racism, hate and xenophobia against immigrants,” Alcaraz said.

He described how his two immigrant parents from Mexico did nothing but work hard and try to make a better life.

Though others in his family are artistic, Alcaraz is the first to pursue a full-time career in the arts. He was the editorial cartoonist for his college newspaper and painted murals with Chicano artists in San Diego. He continued to improve after college and started to work for L.A. Weekly in 1992.

“The L.A. riots happened and L.A. Weekly invited me to pitch a comic to them. Los Angeles had to open up its institutions after some soul searching after the riots,” Alcaraz said. He became a powerful voice for many during the changes in the United States.

Alcaraz is currently a consultant with Pixar on the upcoming Dia De Los Muertos -themed movie “Coco,” coming Nov. 22. He continues to create political cartoons for his own “La Cucaracha” comic strip along with other TV projects.

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    Robert H.Apr 25, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Excellent information-gathering, follow up, and writing by student journalists Chris and Olivia!