Spanish department explores cultural diversity through food


Jeremy Smith

Photo by Scott Lamanna

With late-night Taco Bell runs a big part of many first-year experiences, many Calvin students may think they know Mexican food. The Spanish department, however, has taken a stance against the fake, uncategorized meat-filled tacos.

This past Saturday, April 18, the department invited students to come along on a taco tasting tour at local Grand Rapids taquerias.

Before the 50 students embarked on their cultural adventure, professors taught the students helpful Spanish vocabulary to use while they ordered. (For those of you who are not well-conditioned in the Spanish language, “picante” means spicy — very spicy.)

The goal of this culinary escapade was not only to broaden students’ minds in the realm of Mexican food outside of Taco Bell, but also to allow students to realize the cultural diversity that lies right at their fingertips.

Professor Scott Lamanna, one of the leaders on the taco tasting tour, believes that the Spanish department can have an effect on students and help others reach out to the Hispanic community in Grand Rapids.

“I think one thing that makes the Spanish department unique is that we offer students the opportunity to develop linguistic and cultural competence that they can use to show hospitality to the largest minority group in the U.S., which is Hispanics or Latinos,” Lamanna said.

In addition to becoming more familiar with the “rich cultural diversity” in Grand Rapids, as Lamanna described it, and becoming more effective in relating cross-culturally, the goal of the taco tasting tour was also to have fun and discover what authentic tacos really taste like.

While the American taco normally is dressed with ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, authentic Mexican tacos generally contain grilled steak, marinated pork or chicken and are topped with onions and cilantro.

While Professor Lamanna’s favorite dish was the tacos de carne asada (grilled steak) from Tacos El Cunado, there were many other taquerias involved in the expedition as well, such as Siete Mares, El Rincon Mexicano, Tacos El Caporal and Taqueria San Jose.

The Spanish department encourages you to take a step outside of your comfort zone and dive into the delicious, culturally diverse community in Grand Rapids, and to “Live Mas” in ways that you haven’t before.