Cultural diversity enriches Augusta's social landscape

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When many people think of Augusta, they see it only in black and white, but many cultures add to the spectrum of diversity in the Augusta area.

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Vanessa Mata's family has helped her deal with stereotyping.  Special
Special
Vanessa Mata's family has helped her deal with stereotyping.

Some sophomores at Evans High recently shared stories of their cultures, some of the stereotypes they have faced and offered suggestions on how you can learn something about another culture without even leaving the city.

Vanessa Mata is of Mexican heritage. Because of that, she has been asked several times for proof of citizenship.

"It's very frustrating when people are stereotypical. Not every Mexican is an illegal," said Vanessa, 16.

Vanessa's strong family ties have helped her when she faces problems with stereotyping.

"In my culture, we value our families greatly," she said. "We stick together as a family. My extended family lives close by, so if there is ever a problem we don't have to worry because we know our family is there. When I turned 15 and celebrated by having a quinceaÃera, my whole family worked together to make it possible."

Vanessa is proud of her heritage and recommends watching the movie A Day Without a Mexican to learn more about her culture.

Growing up in a biracial family, Jovanna Grant has plenty of cultural influences in her life. Her father's Panamanian culture gave Jovanna childhood memories that will last a lifetime.

"When I was younger, I lived in Panama. One of my earliest memories was that of Christmas," she said. "All of Panama would be lit up. Everyone would decorate their houses and people would raise money to decorate other buildings and houses.

"Christmas Day is similar to the Fourth of July or New Year's Eve in the United States. People would do fireworks and estrellas (sparklers) and they would stay out until midnight. It was a lot of fun."

Jovanna's mother's Jamaican culture also plays a big role in her life.

"When I visit my mom's family in Jamaica, I hear a lot of reggae music. This music was created in Jamaica and is very popular on the island. Jamaicans have many unique dishes and foods. One of these includes the ackee fruit, which is used in dishes such as salt fish."

Like many other minorities, Jovanna faces ignorance in the form of stereotypes.

"When I lived in Panama, I witnessed the tension between black Panamanians and white Panamanians," she said. "Many people also assume that Jamaicans are violent and dumb."

Jovanna recommends listening to a reggae musician such as Bob Marley, or try listening to musica tipica, a folkloric music style native to Panama.

Asha Madkan, who is of Indian ethnicity, has been to India on many occasions and describes it as a very scenic, beautiful country instead of the overcrowded country that many people make it out to be.

"The Ganges River is absolutely beautiful. Sometimes if you go to the mountainous regions of India, you can see peacocks walking around during their mating season," she said.

Asha enjoys observing differences between Indian and American cultures:

"In the malls in India, you come in and sit down and a shopkeeper brings you drinks. You then describe what type of outfit you're looking for, and the shopkeeper bring out the outfits that are similar to what you are looking for. Also, unlike in the United States, almost each state in India has its own culture as well as its own unique language."

Asha says family also plays an important role in Indian culture:

"When my dad came to the States from India, my aunts in California let him live with them and helped him until he could get onto his feet."

Asha recommends going to the Arts in the Hearts Festival and getting a henna tattoo.

"Henna, or mehndi , is an Indian form of art which brides usually get done on their hands before their weddings," she said.

Each culture has its unique features. Some are more different and more unusual than what we encounter every day, but in the end, we can all learn something from one another.

Jackie Rodriguez is a sophomore at Evans High School.


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