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Seniors Experience the Cultures and Communities of a New York Borough

Seniors Experience the Cultures and Communities of a New York Borough

Seniors taking the elective Displacements: The Latinx Experience recently went to Queens, New York, for a visual experience of one of the most diverse boroughs in the city — with a population from 160 countries. 

Students in the course study film, literature, art, music, and political campaigns to analyze three types of displacement: forced, political exile, and immigration. They begin with the period of colonization in the Americas to understand how both Black and Indigenous peoples were forced to leave their lands and how their cultures were oppressed by the ideologies of Spanish colonialism. They then focus on the immigrant experience (the journey, adaptation, and xenophobia) endured by those who leave their homeland. The course also explores the political laws and cultural narratives that prevent immigrants from fully integrating and participating as members of society while also examining resistance and social justice movements from the Latinx community. The course is an interdisciplinary course housed in both the Upper School English and History Departments.

In the final unit, students learn about the reasons why people immigrate to the United States, such as war and economic opportunities, culminating in a daylong trip to Queens. On the trip were seniors Maya Franco, Nathalie Montesdeoca, Margeaux Morial, Bea Mendelsohn, and Rhyan Brown, accompanied by Upper School teachers Dr. Medina and Dr. Neacsu.

Using public transportation, students immediately noticed the demographic changes from station to station as they traveled across the borough, beginning with Flushing to explore the diversity of North Asian countries, then on to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park to see the iconic Unisphere, representing our entire world, and from there to Jackson Heights, home to people from all over Latin America. 

The group enjoyed lunch at the Colombian restaurant Pollos Mario, where they tried traditional dishes such as bandeja paisa (sausage, ground beef, red beans, rice, plantain, and a fried egg), before going on to 74th Street and Roosevelt, where South Asian communities sell their foods and crafts. For their last stop, the seniors joined hundreds of New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world in Manhattan’s bustling Times Square to take in its sights and sounds.

“My favorite part of the day was taking the subway to different sections of Queens,” says Rhyan. “It was so interesting being able to explore the various neighborhoods and cultures because they were so vastly different from one another. Every time we stepped off the subway, it felt like we were entering another country.”