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- 08/14/14--05:59: _Local artist: “Art ...
- 10/09/14--11:02: _Cultural Connection...
- 12/12/14--18:07: _Cultural Connection...
- 02/15/15--07:35: _Cultural Connection...
- 05/19/15--06:53: _Cultural Connection...
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- 03/07/16--07:42: _Cultural Connection...
- 05/21/16--04:06: _Cultural Connection...
- 07/20/16--18:30: _Cultural Connection...
- 11/13/16--18:00: _Cultural Connection...
- 02/23/17--06:43: _Cultural Connection...
- 04/26/17--18:11: _Cultural Connection...
- 06/20/17--17:39: _Cultural Connection...
- 08/14/17--19:01: _Cultural Connection...
- 10/24/17--04:52: _Cultural Connection...
- 12/21/17--16:27: _Cultural Connection...
- 02/21/18--19:38: _Cultural Connection...
- 08/14/14--05:59: Local artist: “Art cures”
- 10/09/14--11:02: Cultural Connections: Meet Amadou Bakayoko
- 02/15/15--07:35: Cultural Connections: Cuban immigrant comes to Hyattsville
- 07/18/15--14:18: Cultural Connections: From France to the United States
- 03/07/16--07:42: Cultural Connections: Irish roots run deep in Hyattsville
- 05/21/16--04:06: Cultural Connections: One Egyptian’s Transition to Life in the US
- 02/23/17--06:43: Cultural Connections: From Turkey to Washington, DC
- 12/21/17--16:27: Cultural Connections: From Reykjavík to Washington, D.C.
– JULIA GASPER-BATES – Argentine artist Alfredo Ratinoff believes that being a “gypsy” has shaped his identity and the creativity that fuels his work. As we chat in his [Hyattsville studio, surrounded by his sculptures and mosaics, he explains that his art reflects his experiences with fragments of different cultures and personal loss. Art provided a refuge, he says. His favorite mantra is “Art cures.” Alfredo started his exploration of other cultures early. “My first memory is being at the airport about to board a plane with my parents. Everything that happened in my life is tied up with a trip and travel,” he tells me. He spent the first 11 years of his life moving between his native Buenos Aires and cities such as Athens, Rome, Paris, Madrid and Tehran. Loss – of loved ones, country and home – is a theme woven into Alfredo’s life and work. Due to his frequent travels, Alfredo didn’t have many toys and had to leave his favorite possessions behind more than once. “I learned to treasure the images inside because I couldn’t get too attached to things,” he says. Losing things as a child, he says, reinforces the need to dowhat you [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — In 2011, Amadou Bakayoko and his wife discovered Hyattsville by chance while they were looking for a new home closer to Washington, D.C. “I like Hyattsville because it’s quiet, safe and you have a diverse population,” he said.“The residents are living as a well-integrated small community with people caring for and watching for one another.” Prior to moving to the U.S., Bakayoko lived in several West African countries. Although he was born and raised in the Côte d’Ivoire, Bakayoko primarily identifies with his ethnic group, the Dioula, who originated in Mali. “It’s difficult to talk about Ivoirian culture because there are more than 60 ethnic groups and each group has its own language and culture,.” he said. Like most Dioula, Bakayoko is Muslim, and one of his fondest childhood memories is celebrating the end of Ramadan. “During the festival people dress well, go to prayer, and…celebrate with neighbors, even if they’re not Muslim. [As part of the celebrations], children must go around town to greet families and friends and they receive money and gifts. It’s a day of sharing and giving offerings,” he said. Amadou Bakayoko Bakayoko relocated abroad after divisiveness between Côte d’Ivoire ethnic groups [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — German immigrant Imke Ahlf-Wien is happy to call Hyattsville her home. Living here has been “fantastic because of the strong network and because so much is happening,” she said. “I love the diversity — I actually like a good mix of people from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.”Ahlf-Wien, who works as a freelance translator of modern Arabic literature, and her husband, Peter, moved to the U.S. in 2006 when Peter the University of Maryland hired him to teach. Previously, they lived in Morocco. Imke Ahlf-Wien and family. Photo courtesy Julia Gaspar-Bates. The couple initially planned to live here only a few years but as time passed, Imke said they considered staying definitively. Ahlf-Wien said returning to her home culture after many years away helped her realize that it is easier to meet people in the United States.“We were relieved to come back to the U.S. In Germany it was difficult at first because people do not open up…It put me in the shoes of someone who comes to Germany from a different culture because it must be very hard to access German culture,” she said. Although she misses urban life and the ability to “walk or [...]
BY JULIA GASPER-BATES — Cuban immigrant Osbel Susman-Peña discovered Hyattsville after he and his American wife, Tara, happened upon an article in The Washington Post promoting the town as an artistic community in transition. They were sold on the city when “… we saw children walking by themselves in the street,” Susman-Peña said. “This gave us confidence that it’s a safe area where we could raise our children. We also liked the diversity with lots of multi-racial and gay couples. I really liked that I could walk down the street and people say ‘hi’ to you. This reminded me of Cuba and I felt at home.” Osbel Susman-Peña left Cuba soon after Castro’s rise to power. Photo courtesy Julia Gaspar-Bastes For Susman-Peña, home has been many places. Born into a diplomatic family in Havana in the post-Revolution years when Fidel Castro came into power, he left Cuba soon thereafter when his father was posted in Algeria. “When I returned to Cuba in 1970 everything was rationed. I came from [Algeria] where there was a lot of prosperity. There was no possibility to access things that I was used to having in Algeria. [In Cuba,] I realized that you couldn’t eat [...]
BY JULIA GASPER-BATES — Hyattsville resident Dušan Turčan hails from the village of Hlozany in the fertile plains of northern Serbia. The son of a rose farmer, Turčan was raised in a culturally rich and close-knit community, which is something he did not immediately find as an exchange student in America. At first, “I felt lonely and couldn’t relate to anybody,” he said. “You had to have a car to do anything. In my village, you could walk everywhere. In the U.S., everything was bigger.” Dušan Turčan is a Hyattsville immigrant originally from Serbia. His village was inhabited by Slovaks who immigrated to the area in the 18th century. “There is a diversity of ethnic groups and religions in northern Serbia,” he said, including Slovaks, Serbians, Hungarians, Russians, and Roma. .” The diversity strengthened Turčan’s ties to his Slovak heritage. Growing up, “kids were part of Slovak folk groups and a big part of my social life was playing music, songs, and dance. In the summer there were regional festivals and lots of competitions. Weddings take three days and there are lots of old traditions and old Slovak songs woven into them.” Turčan grew up in a united Yugoslavia and [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — When Juliette Fradin first arrived in the U.S. from her native France seven years ago, she was impressed with the warmth of Americans. “I was totally blown away because people here are so welcoming,” she said. “… It’s really pleasant to live here where people are always optimistic.” Photo courtesy Juliette Fradin. Fradin’s experience in the U.S. has been surprising on multiple fronts. Her husband Antoine was offered a teaching position at the University of Maryland. “The adventure of living in the U.S. was really appealing. There are lots of clichés about Americans in France but we are raised with American culture, so there is always this American dream. I thought it would be the same in France and U.S. since American culture is everywhere in France. But now I can say that we are two different cultures.” It took Fradin time to fully understand these differences and for her culture shock to subside. “There is no spontaneity,” she said. “Everything is scheduled. You need an invitation, and they’re sent one month in advance. Here you have a party with a defined time frame. There is no possibility of just being in the moment. It’s always [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — When Nubia Arias arrived in the U.S. from her native El Salvador in 1992, she was initially unhappy. Arias’ mother had been living in the U.S. for eight years, and during her absence, Arias and her three siblings were raised by their grandparents. “My grandparents stayed in Salvador, so I had to separate from them,” Arias said. “My grandmother told me that after three months [in the U.S.] I would have the green card and I could return to be with her. …When I arrived my mother told me I had to stay. “I was so angry with her and I cried every day for a year,” Arias said. “I couldn’t understand the language at school and I hated this country.” Once Arias learned to speak English, she said she began to feel more comfortable in her adopted country. Since her mother worked long hours as a housekeeper to provide for the family, Arias was raised primarily by her older sister. Expectations were different in the U.S. “In El Salvador, you get married, have children and take care of them. Women in El Salvador only work if they are educated,” Arias said. “In small towns where [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Javier Culzoni’s childhood in Asunción, Paraguay set the stage for his eventual immigration to the U.S. His mother, a dancer, frequently traveled around the world for several months at a time. Consequently, Culzoni said he and his brother grew up “with two different faces,” as relatives would care for them during their mother’s absences. “At my house, there were always 10-12 people every day and on weekends. We would all get together and spend time having a BBQ. I miss that a lot,” he said. Javier Culzoni When Culzoni was 15, his parents separated and his father moved to the U.S. Until moving here 11 years later, he saw his father only during a visit to Paraguay. In 2000, Culzoni was playing semi-professional soccer and decided to join his dad in the U.S. “When I came here, I was living in RockvilIe. I worked in construction and played soccer in amateur leagues in Maryland. They would pay me $100 per game. I would save the money to enroll in English classes,” he said. The first year was hard. Culzoni consciously tried to cultivate friendships with Americans. “Because that would help me learn and listen and [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — When Jimmy McAuliffe’s ship landed in New York in 1959 after leaving his native Ireland, he was overwhelmed by all the cars, lights and noise he encountered. “It was kind of scary because I was young and I’d never traveled before. I thought to myself ‘what in the name of God have I gotten myself into?’ There were no cars back home like there are nowadays so I used a bicycle, a pony and trap.” Jimmy McAuliffe Growing up in a small village in County Kerry, McAuliffe was unaccustomed to the fast pace of modern life in the United States. He lived with his parents and siblings in a small house on seven acres of land. He recalls, “We had a small farm with two cows, a pony, ducks, chickens and turkeys. My mother worked with local farmers. At Christmas time, you sold turkeys in the local town to ship to England. My father worked repairing the roads on the county council.” Although McAuliffe’s parents had lived in the U.S. in the 1920s and were married in Baltimore, they returned to Ireland before starting a family because his mother didn’t like living here. Several of her [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — One of the fondest memories Egyptian Raina Elmalky has from home is the social gatherings with family and friends. Born in the small town of Sirs el-Layan near the Nile, Raina recalls that friends and relatives would always stop by for meals and other celebrations. “There were always members of the family at my house. We shared meals together because that is when you share stories about the day.” That informal social life is one of the aspects of Egyptian culture that Raina misses. “Egyptians help each other regardless of whether they know you. If anyone needs anything they knock on the door and people welcome them and give them what they have.” After finishing university, Elmalky worked as a pharmacist before moving to the U.S. 16-years-ago. Her husband, Mohamed, had been living in the U.S. for several years and was visiting Egypt when they met through family. Although Elmalky had traveled within the Middle East, moving to the U.S. was her first time outside the region. “I only knew about the U.S. from the movies and the news. Egyptian people like to know about different cultures. I was open to anything I would see.” Transitioning [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Despite many hardships, including imprisonment, Yirdaw Anteneh remains grateful for the many miracles he’s received in his life. Born and raised in northern Ethiopia, Anteneh was educated in the French school system and became a French teacher after completing university in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. A few months later, however, he was arrested and imprisoned by the military junta that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in a bloody coup d’etat. “I was arrested for distributing suspicious readings to my students about democracy,” said Anteneh. “They chained my legs for two weeks. It happened to thousands of potentially dangerous people who would ask why, such as students and their teachers.” During this period, known as the Red Terror, Anteneh spent two and a half years in prison where he was tortured. Yirdaw Anteneh “For most people like me who were detained, we were in a shelter and always waiting until they would come to kill you. We didn’t know when we would be released. There was no case, no interview.” In 1979, Anteneh was one of the fortunate few to be released, and he resumed teaching French. He also received a scholarship allowing him to obtain additional training in France where he received a master’s degree. He eventually settled back [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Hyattsville resident Jakob Henriksson attributes his ability to easily adjust to other cultures to his international upbringing. Born in Sweden to parents who worked in international development, Henriksson spent his first 15 years moving back and forth between Sweden and Bangladesh, where his parents worked. “It was a special way to grow up in a small community of Swedes in Bangladesh. It gave me perspective. It made me very adaptable. You get used to that shift.” Life in Bangladesh was good for Henriksson, who lived in a wealthy area of the capital city of Dhaka, close to other expats, including many Swedes who were part of his community. “I was accepted as a Swede. I had a lot of freedom to move around in the neighborhood where I lived. I remember it being a lot of fun. It was almost more jarring to go back to Sweden. I felt that I didn’t fit in as well on a day-to-day basis. Interacting with kids [made for] a harsher environment. In Dhaka, we lived so close to many of the families it was easy to meet with other friends and go to each other’s houses.” Despite feeling [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES Moving frequently within her home country of Turkey as a child prepared Hyattsville resident Julide Dengel for her eventual move to the U.S. Dengel spent her early years in Istanbul before relocating to Turkey’s capital, Ankara, at age 7. When Dengel was a teenager, her father’s job took the family to a different region of Turkey. She experienced culture shock, leaving behind a modern lifestyle and entering into a more traditional environment. “The atmosphere was very male-dominated. It was not easy being a young female with a vibrant social life,” Dengel said. Dengel’s antidote to her situation was to take extra classes so she could finish high school early. She worked hard and graduated by her sophomore year. After graduation, Dengel returned to Istanbul to study textile design. “When I came back to Istanbul, I changed my look. I dyed my hair and started to dress more bohemian. It was a sense of freedom,” she said. Photo courtesy of Julide Dengel After Dengel finished her studies, her parents sent her to the U.S. to join her older brothers who had gone to college here. Initially she was resistant: “My view of the U.S. was McDonald’s, and I didn’t [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES Despite not living much of her life in Palestine, Hyattsville resident Mai Abdul Rahman feels a close affinity for her native land and culture. Abdul Rahman spent her formative years at boarding school in Lebanon while her parents lived in Saudi Arabia because of her father’s oil industry work. Yet her Palestinian roots run deep. “Although my father’s family was poor, they were peasant landowners who relied on their land to survive. My mother’s family was very poor. However, in Palestine, names are very important, and my mother had good lineage which connects her to the Prophet Mohammed.” Abdul Rahman’s family was deeply attached to the land and suffered many hardships over the years. “My grandmother picked olives and seeds to be able to send her only son to private school. Everyone worked very hard to make sure that he would have the education he needed. He struggled a lot because he’s a Palestinian.” After Israel became a state in 1948, much of her family’s land was seized, and they had to relocate to the West Bank. “My father would go in the darkness of night into his family’s property to cut flowers, clip olive and grape [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Born into a large family in his native Guadeloupe, Felix Grandisson strongly values family and his connection to the land. He grew up in a farming family on Basse-Terre (“Low Land”), a Caribbean island where coffee and sugarcane production are the primary industries. “When my great-great-grandfather became free at the end of slavery, he decided to farm, and this value of the land has passed down through the generations. I have farming blood,” Grandisson said. Felix Gadisson, Hyattsville resident since 2015. Originally from Guadaloupe, an insular island region of France. As a child, Grandisson developed an interest in both agriculture and entrepreneurship: “I used to go to the farm with my father to work. This is where I learned the value of working and doing what you’re supposed to do and not what you want to do by yourself. During this time, I spent a lot of time in the forest. It helped me observe and connect with nature. I did a lot of research on how to grow things. We would try things and figure out how to do it. My friends and I always had a project. We harvested coconuts and guava and sold them. It [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Growing up in the Bahía region of northern Brazil presented many challenges and opportunities for Livaldi “Babajan” da Cruz. Born into a favela (ghetto) on the outskirts of the city of Salvador, da Cruz explained, “I lived in the middle of all kinds of people — from good to bad. Everybody was living together and trying to keep everybody else on the right track.” Da Cruz lived with his parents and five siblings in a small home in an alleyway. “I come from a poor family. My dad would wake all the boys at 4 a.m. to go to the open marketplace to buy fruit to put in a wheelbarrow to sell in the street to give us money. If we were lucky we would sell enough fruit to have food in the house. There were times when we didn’t have food and we would only have sugared water and dry bread to eat. But my parents always made sure that we had a lot of discipline and manners so we wouldn’t end up on the wrong path.” At age 10, da Cruz started to do theater at a local community center that provided creative arts [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Growing up in a small town in New South Wales, Australian resident Mandy Sheffer never expected that she would expatriate to the U.S. Born to British parents who had emigrated to Australia, Sheffer claims that she had a very average childhood: “I went to an all-girls Catholic high school. I went to college in Canberra and lived with my parents, which is quite common in Australia.” At 19, Sheffer participated in a cultural exchange to live and work at a ski resort in the U.S., a practice common with many young Australians. “I ended up at Wintergreen Ski Resort outside Charlottesville thinking that I would do childcare. However, when I arrived, I found out I was also a ski instructor. I mostly taught 2- to 3-year-olds to ski.” Soon after her arrival in Charlottesville, Sheffer met her now husband, Thomas, who worked at the resort on weekends while going to school. She claims that she knew right away that she would marry him. For the next two years, they visited each other’s country on extended tourist visas. In 2004, six months before Thomas graduated from college, they realized that they couldn’t continue the long-distance relationship indefinitely. [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Growing up in Reykjavík, Iceland, Ólafur Jónasson experienced a lot of autonomy. The capital city has an estimated population of 123,000 and boasts a very low crime rate. Jónasson explained, “It’s quite safe — when [you] are 7 or 8, you start walking to school on your own. We were able to play outside; people weren’t restricted as kids here. When you go to high school in the U.S., you are treated like kids, but in Iceland you have a lot more freedom and independence. We are not told what to do.” Spending time outside in nature is a national pastime. “People are very outdoorsy. Icelanders play a lot of soccer and handball, but golf is one of the most popular sports.” Like many Icelanders, Jónasson and his family would leave the city on weekends to enjoy the vast expanse of nature. “My favorite place to visit in Iceland is Laugarvatn, which is about one hour from Reykjavík. My grandfather had a log cabin there so we would go there every week. There was a small lake, and we would go in the boat and fish and play golf.” Given its proximity to the Arctic Circle, [...]
BY JULIA GASPAR-BATES — Growing up in the busy metropolis of Tehran, Nahid Soltanzadeh lived a privileged life. “I have a liberal family, and I had a lot of freedom that many girls my age did not have. There is a complex combination of religion and tradition that creates the fiber of what society expects of women in Iran.” Although her family did not practice Islam, Soltanzadeh noted, “The rules and the laws are made as if everyone is a Muslim, and you have to pretend that you are. Women have to wear loose clothing and the hijab [headscarf]. There are hijab police who drive around, and if you are not wearing one, you are taken to a police station where you sign a statement promising that you will wear it. A family member has to bring you the proper clothing to be released. I was arrested three times. After three arrests, you [may] have a criminal record. That didn’t happen to me, but it was much harder to get released after the third time.” While simultaneously studying engineering at university in Tehran and teaching Persian literature at a middle school, Soltanzadeh, along with her family, received U.S. green cards. [...]
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