Hostos Community College

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Quijombo (Afro-Dominican Cultural Exchange) and BomPlenazo (Afro-Puerto Rican Cultural Exchange & Festival)

Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture, Hostos Community College of the City University of New York

Project Summary

The Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture’s two-year project linked two major Afro-Caribbean cultural festivals to unique student study abroad programs, offered in partnership with the Hostos Community College’s Office of International Programs and the College’s Humanities Department. The festivals were BomPlenazo, a biennial of Afro-Puerto Rican culture that the Center has produced since 2000, and Quijombo, a celebration of Afro-Dominican culture that the Center presented for the first time in October 2007. The festivals have become rotating biennials which focus on the cultural heritages of two of the principal communities served by the College and the Center.

Summer abroad program & Festival Cultural guides

In the summers prior to each festival, the Hostos Center, the Humanities Department and the Office of International Programs developed study abroad programs for students to conduct fieldwork and develop a personal, hands-on understanding of the artists and cultural traditions featured in the upcoming fall festivals. The study abroad programs took place Puerto Rico and in communities in the Dominican Republic that UNESCO has designated as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Students and Hostos faculty members learned about these communities’ artistic and cultural traditions, as well as the passing on of those traditions and their contemporary political, social and economic situations. The instruction was provided as a credit-bearing course offered by the Hostos Humanities Department/Latin American Studies Unit titled Seminar and Fieldwork in Caribbean Society and Culture. Prof. Carlos Sanabria, chairperson of the Humanities Department at Hostos, taught this course. Instruction took place on campus and during field trips to the communities whose artists were booked for the festival in the fall.

Prior to the Creative Campus project, the study abroad experience had been characterized by traditional classroom instruction, sightseeing tours, visits to museums and attendance at functions and receptions. The experience is now characterized by hands-on fieldwork in which students study, observe and interact with practitioners of traditional cultures in their milieus. Those students are then afforded the opportunity to continue similar study in the fall semester, and they are equipped to attend the subsequent festival activities as more discerning and knowledgeable audience members.

Eleven students from these summer programs were selected and trained to serve as cultural guides and docents for public school classes attending the Quijombo and BomPlenazo festivals. The intention behind the cultural guide program was to allow students to develop themselves as ambassadors of the cultures they studied and to refine their own skills as public speakers. Their training and services were coordinated by Leonardo Ivan Domi­nguez, artistic director of Grupo Folklarico Alianza Dominicana (for Quijombo), Wallace Edgecombe, director of the Hostos Center, and Julia Gutierrez, education coordinator and principal dancer for Los Pleneros de la 21, a Bomplenazo festival partner.

Festival Specifics

Due to a complication with travel visas, the Quijombo festival was scaled back and made greater use of local artists than originally planned. However, despite this setback the festival was presented in October 2007. In October 2008, Hostos presented the BomPlenazo 2008 festival. It was inaugurated by an all-day seminar on the effects of development and globalization on traditional cultures, a major theme of the study abroad and fall semester courses. Participating in the seminar were artists and community activists whom the Hostos students had interviewed during the 2008 summer abroad program.

In each semester in which the festivals were presented, the Hostos Community College Humanities Department included festival activities as part of requirements for courses on Latin American and Caribbean culture.

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