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School boosts integration among immigrant students

Published on August 28, 2008

28 August 2008

L’HOSPITALET — Spanish omelet, shrimp ceviche, cornmeal rolls, pigs in a blanket, chicken cooked in beer and more.

No, it’s not a culinary fair, but rather the menu at the end-of-semester party at the Màrius Torres school in the Collblanc de L’Hospitalet neighbourhood.

With immigrants making up 90 percent of students, the children at the school are studying each of their countries through their respective delicacies. On the last day of term, their proud parents came together to show off typical dishes from their cultures to the rest of the children and their teachers.

"Today it’s the parents who are the protagonists," explains Jorge León, the head teacher at the school. By mid-morning, around 150 adults have arrived at the school, all eager to try the 100 or so dishes on show in one of the classrooms.

"My daughter and I prepared it," says Ángela Escobar of the plate of pies and stuffed potatoes in front of her, which Angie, her daughter, is going to great lengths to show to her classmates.

Both are wearing shirts with Colombia on them, their country of origin. Indeed, soccer jerseys are out in force, in particular those of Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil – South America is the continent that is most represented by the school, with 183 of the 239 kids hailing from that part of the world.

There are 23 Spanish children at the school, who held their own during the event as their omelettes and bread puddings were snapped up in the space of minutes.

"Looking at how the kids get on, it’s as if they were all from the same country," says León. "We should learn from them, because they don’t have any prejudices." The idea seemed to be strengthening the relationship between the adults, too. "It’s a great idea – parents should get on well," says Carol España, from Ecuador.

"We are meeting people here," says Abderraman Elbarki, a Moroccan who is proud of the typical dish he has brought with him. "Try it, try it," he says to anyone who passes by. "I love this project, and what it shows us: that a dish is the reflection of a culture," he says.

The racket approaching from the schoolyard precedes the appearance of the children themselves, who soon fill the classroom.

"That’s my one, that’s my one!" shouts one of the little girls to her friends. Xian Lan Bao, an eight-year-old Chinese boy, hands out sweet pastries, one of his favourite delicacies.

"There’s nothing left for me!" says Alfredo Crespo, the grandfather of one of the few Spanish students. He is satisfied with the scheme because one get to know other cultures.

Jorge León, who has headed up the school since it was first set up, is delighted with the day’s events. "We’ve given them a good send off," he says with a smile.

[El Pais / Maiol Roger / Expatica]

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