Release: Feb. 4, 2016
GAMBIER, Ohio — A popular series of public forums that Kenyon’s Rural Life Center has held for a decade is returning to examine three aspects of Knox County culture: its fiddle music tradition, the effects of the local food movement and the lives of Latinos who live in the area.
The first session of the series called “Visits,” which attracts many community members to campus, will be “Latino Knox County” at 11:10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in the lounge of Peirce Hall, 201 College Park St.
The conversation will build on a traveling exhibit called “Latinos in Rural America,” created by Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio and two students who documented interviews with local residents about their journey stories, family life, food traditions, church involvement and perceptions of inclusion. The exhibit, which was shown this winter at Kenyon and the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, pioneered a window into local Latinos’ lives, helping to make the population more visible and concrete for the larger community, Román-Odio said.
She hopes the “Visits” session will allow more in-depth interaction and exchange with three Latino residents interviewed for the project. “Ultimately, we hope this conversation will continue to erode the barriers that separate groups based simply on ethnic origins,” she said.
The three guests joining Román-Odio are:
• Adriana Gonzalez-Cottrell, who goes by Gigi, the lieutenant at the Mount Vernon Salvation Army. A recent arrival to the area, Gonzalez-Cottrell has established two substantial after-school programs: learning zones that support children with tutoring, games and art activities and a partnership with Kenyon to provide a college-preparation course for Latino youths.
• Mario Álvarez-León, a 15-year-old high school student in Mount Vernon and aspiring soccer player. He is an enthusiastic member of college-prep course and dreams about a successful college career.
• Irene Rivera, manager of Fiesta Mexicana restaurant of Mount Vernon. The Rivera family maintains strong ties with relatives in Mexico. Rivera has moved out of town on occasion, but she never stays away too long because she begins to “miss my little town.”
Each “Visits” event focuses on an issue important to the culture or history of the area and includes a discussion with local residents. The forums are coordinated by Howard Sacks, Rural Life Center director and professor of sociology.
Other programs in the series include “Food for Thought,” on Thursday, March 24, and “Old-Time Country Fiddling,” on Thursday, April 21. The events are free, and the public is encouraged to attend. To learn more about “Visits,” go to rurallife.kenyon.edu or call the Rural Life Center at 740-427-5850.