Making West Home in Las Vegas

Contact: Darcy Minter 775.340.4240
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Workshop Brings Together Immigrant Women
to Share Traditional Foods, Recipes and Stories

Las Vegas – The Western Folklife Center and Clark County Parks & Recreation will bring together immigrant women to share their traditional foods and recipes, and their personal stories with each other in a workshop titled Making West Home. The workshop will take place at the Winchester Cultural Center, at 3130 South McLeod, Saturday, June 7, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The workshop is free, but pre-registration is required. To register for this workshop please contact Irma Wynants at the Winchester Cultural Center, 702-455-7340. Registration is limited to 25 participants.

Making West Home brings together immigrant women living in Las Vegas to cook food from their various ethnic traditions, share stories and explore how food triggers memories about family life, culture, community and connection to place. Each participant will bring a dish from her heritage to share for a potluck lunch and a recipe to accompany the food. The women will talk about the cultures the food represents, the people who passed it on to them and the meaning the dishes hold. Participants are encouraged to bring photographs and other objects to help them tell their stories. The recipes and short versions of these narratives will be compiled into a booklet for each participant.

The workshop will be facilitated by Joanne Mulcahy, who has taught writing for 20 years at the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Joanne has also worked in numerous community settings, including women’s prisons, libraries and health centers in Northern Ireland as well as the United States.

According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Nevada’s foreign-born population increased 21% between 2000 and 2006. It is safe to assume that Las Vegas, as the state’s largest urban area, took on the lion’s share of this growth. According to Irma Wynants, cultural specialist at the Winchester Cultural Center, "women are often the keepers of tradition in a family. They are also the ones who help their family adapt to new environments and, in Las Vegas they have to learn to separate fantasy from reality. Food is an integral part of a culture’s identity – immigrant women use their food traditions to help their families and communities stay connected to their culture and maintain their identity in a new and disorienting environment. Making West Home is a way for these women of different cultural backgrounds to come together, share their food, talk about their common experiences and support each other."

Monica Dell’Orto moved to Henderson, Nevada, in 2004 from Cancun, Mexico, to marry her Italian American boyfriend. They now have three small children and Monica is just beginning to make friends in her new community. Recently, she met some Mexican women at her gym; when they get together, they talk about food and their children.

"I don’t love cooking very much, but I love food," explains Monica. "I like to share food and to know different recipes. I cook some Mexican and some Italian food that I have learned. My mother-in-law taught me to make a turkey. I learned to make tamales here in America. I never made tamales in Mexico because it is a very long process and you can get tamales in Mexico for a peso.

"In America, it is more important for me to keep my traditions, than it was in Mexico. For example, last fall, I celebrated Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), by making an altar for the first time. Now that I am away from Mexico, I want to do that. It’s important to me."

Monica will participate in the Making West Home workshop. She’s trying to decide what food to share: Chile Poblano Soup, Fish Veracruz or Stuffed Jalapenos. Other women in the workshop include Hiromi Masanimptewa, a senior from Japan who dances with Kotobuki, a traditional Japanese dance group, and Sarahama George, a nurse from India who is an organizer of cultural events in the Indian community.

Making West Home is produced by the Western Folklife Center and Clark County Parks & Recreation, and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the MetLife Foundation, Nevada Arts Council and the State of Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information about Making West Home, contact Irma Wynants, Winchester Cultural Center, at 702-455-7340.

Producer of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for 24 years, the Western Folklife Center is a regional organization dedicated to grassroots culture in the West. Headquartered in Elko, Nevada, the Folklife Center conducts its work all over the region.

The purpose of the Western Folklife Center is to enhance the vitality of American life through the experience, understanding, and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the American West.