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  • Evan Chernicky

Multiculturality Day – A Guestbook Project Event

What does Bulgarian circle dancing, Italian hand gestures, and Brazilian poetry have in common? These were all events that local Portuguese students participated in at the first Multiculturality Day in Valongo! Hosted by Utopia 500 and the Guestbook Project with cooperation from the Câmara Municipal de Valongo (CMV), the Agrupamento de Escolas de Valongo, the Observatório das Comunidades Ciganas (ObCig), the AMEC - Associação dos Mediadores Ciganos de Portugal and the Instituto de Literatura Comparada (ILC), on Wednesday, June 14th, over 400 students from Valongo gathered at a near-by camp ground to celebrate the first Multiculturality Day, an event intended to educate students about multiculturalism and to celebrate cultural differences. Photos by: Kristin Hansen (Estonia)

Six tables were present for students to attend representing different cultures from around the globe including Spain, Slovenia, Poland, Brazil, Italy, Bulgaria, Algeria, Lebanon, and the Roma Communities. University students representing each of these countries organized events at the tables to show a small part of their culture. At the Lebanon and Algeria table, local students watched in fascination as Utopian members translated their names into Arabic script. Students had the opportunity to talk with their hands at the Italian table where they learned the meanings to various Italian hand gestures. At the table representing Brazil, students learned about Brazilian literature and discussed poetry. One table organized by ILC had representatives from Slovenia, Cyprus, Poland, Germany, and Spain. The ILC presented greetings and toasts from each of the nations represented as well as common gestures such as handshakes, hugs, and kissing. After completing each table, students received a small band of colored yarn. Once each table was visited, the members from the Roma Communities weaved the different colored strings together (reminiscent of the Roma’s ancient technique of basket weaving) to make a beautiful multicolored bracelet that represented unity of the many different cultures. The bracelet allowed the students to always remember what they learned at Multiculturality Day and the importance of multiculturalism in our modern world.

Video and Edit by: Kristin Hansen (Estonia)

Fátima Vieira, the coordinator of the Utopia 500 project, said that she was “amazed” by how well the students aged from 10-17 participated in the various cultural activities that were displayed at the event. “Sometimes you do not know if teenagers will get into something like this, yet the kids showed a lot of energy today,” she said speaking about the event. Also in attendance was the Mayor of Valongo, José Manuel Ribeiro, who committed the town to being the first “Utopian City” in Portugal. When asked why he believed the event was important he said, “it is important for [kids] to understand the ideas of Thomas More and to accept different cultures.”

As the event drew to a close, students linked arms and danced in a circle to music in traditional Bulgarian style, occasionally pausing to laugh at their own clumsiness. A traditional Roma singer named Rogério Marques performed and drew curiosity and amazement from the attendees. Bruna, a 10th grade student, spoke about the event exclaiming that it was an amazing opportunity to “experience” so many different cultures. She continued, praised the event explaining the importance of “accepting, respecting, and understanding” each other’s differences. When asked what her favorite table was, she quickly and cheerfully responded “all of them!”

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