By Ian Hansen, MPIA ’13

The Bush School Foreign Language and Culture Society (FLCS) got off to a spicy start with South American cultural night on Jan. 31. Approximately 30 Bush School students came to enjoy the food, culture, and cinema of the different countries of the southern continent in what was both an educational and enjoyable experience.

The evening began with catering from a local Ecuadorean company, Rincon Peruano. Owned by Jorge Chunga and his family, the company provided a host of delicious treats including Arroz con Pollo, Lomo Soltado and Ceviche de Pezcado. There were high marks for the authentic cuisine including from second-year IA student, Caitlin Harwood

“I thought the food was definitely a ten out of ten. I lived in South America for over two years and it tasted like I was back there,” Harwood said.

After that, the main event began with a panel comprised of Texas A&M faculty from South America as well as South American Bush School students. The faculty included two Colombians, Dr. Jorge Vanegas, Dean of the College of Architecture, and Dr. Marisa E. Suhm from the Department of Multicultural Services. Both went to great lengths to explain why Colombians are among the world’s happiest people, how exotic their country is, and why family retains a paramount place in Colombian culture.

Dr. Jorge Leon, a Peruvian from the Engineering Technology Department, echoed similar sentiments when speaking about Peru. He and Dr. Suhm both commented how South American cultures often differ from America in things like group versus individualistic mentalities. Fellow Peruvian, and Bush School certificate student Susana Svojsik, somewhat alluded to this as she spoke of how it would be expected for a female in Peru to continue live with her family until she was married. In America, that is of course not always the case.

Diego A. Pinzon, a first-year Bush School student from Colombia, elaborated on his journey to Texas as one guided by family and the U.S. army. The latter ended up providing everything from necessary language skills to the cultural institutions like the American anthem. Meanwhile, Brazilian second-year Vanessa Barbato mentioned how family brought her to Texas while defending Brazilian coffee as the best in South America.

After the panel, a handful of people remained to watch the critically acclaimed Brazilian film, Cidade de Deus (City of God).

“[The film] highlighted the difficulties of life in the favelas but also demonstrated the ingenuity and creativity of a photojournalist in South America,” said second-year student Jacob Brahe, who had never seen the film before.

This was the first event of the semester, but FLCS has many more planned for the student body and any interested faculty. They will include more culture nights, world food days, opportunities to join conference calls with Council on Foreign Relations, and of course the weekly language discussion groups.