Mason community celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

MHS parent Michelle Tarot shows Hispanic Heritage Celebration attendees how to decorate pencil pouches.

Taylor Murray | The Chronicle

On October 13th, the Mason High School (MHS) Spanish National Honor Society joined forces with the Mason City Schools Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council to host a celebration for Hispanic Heritage month.

Mason City Schools Public Information Office and leader of the Mirrors and Windows initiative, Tracey Carson helped organize this event that brought together community members who share the same cultural background. 

“It’s so important as part of our commitment to inclusive excellence to have these moments to come together as a community and really celebrate the rich identities in our schools,” Carson said. “That’s a part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and justice.”

All month long, different schools in the district participated in activities to educate their students on Hispanic Heritage. At Mason Intermediate, there was a contest where students could compete to make the best and most culturally accurate poster. The winning posters were displayed at the celebration. There were also a variety of picture books published by Hispanic authors, collected by Soroya Smith. Smith is the diversity, equity and learning experience designer for DEI, and she brought together all of the different Hispanic groups for this celebration.

Another activity featured at the celebration was led by Michelle Tarot, the mother of two Mason graduates and two current MHS students. Tarot drew inspiration from traditional cloths and fabrics from Guatemala, where she grew up. She hosted a craft table where visitors could decorate a small pencil pouch using a ruler and markers, imitating the colorful, striped pattern of the traditional fabric. 

“This is so fun because this kind of looks similar to [the traditional fabric],” Tarot said. “They can have it every day, and they will remember that this is something traditional from another country.”

As a member of the Hispanic community in Mason, Tarot said that her experiences in Mason can be different from most. People have always loved her accent, but they do not always know the culture behind it. Mason’s DEI council is working to educate Mason on the subject, and Tarot said that she is very happy that Mason provides so many opportunities to learn about other cultures.

“Nowadays, people are embracing more diversity, which is awesome,” Tarot said. “I feel that there are so many countries represented – not just Hispanic, but around the world here in Mason – that everybody wants to know a little bit more about.”

Chiara Di Loreto, a junior in the MHS Spanish National Honor Society, was behind the displays of Latin American countries at the celebration. The celebration allowed her to meet and connect with other people in the Mason community with a Hispanic background.

“It’s so fun,” Di Loreto said. “You talk to people in Spanish, and you usually don’t get to do that. People know you speak Spanish because you’re here. So it’s easier to talk to people.”

Senior Mia Maldonado is part of the Spanish National Honor Society along with Di Loreto. Maldonado finds her Hispanic heritage useful in finding friends at school because she can bond with them over being a minority. She said that she was very excited to get a chance to teach others about her culture.

“My family and friends are Hispanic speakers from different countries,” Maldonado said. “So you get to learn about their different cultures. I think it’s a great thing that I get to educate other people and they get to learn about every other culture.”

MJ Contreras, an MHS sophomore, was pleasantly surprised by the number of Hispanic community members at the celebration. Both of their parents are Mexican, and their two older brothers were born in Querétaro, Mexico. People often do not know at first glance that Contreras is Hispanic and Latinx, but much like Di Loreto, their culture affects their daily life. This celebration was something for them to look forward to, since they don’t always see their culture represented at school.

“I think it’s really great that the schools actually did something to commemorate Hispanic people and Latino people,” Contreras said. “It’s really important to get information out there about other cultures in the world, and especially in schools where you’re trying to teach kids.”

The Hispanic Heritage celebration brought people together from all over Mason, and from all different backgrounds. Tarot said these events are very important to her culture, as they are crucial to ensuring that minority groups are appreciated.

“People are embracing more of [other cultures] because you fear what you don’t know,” Tarot said. “Now the unknown is not so worrisome anymore, and I can enjoy something different and still be me.”

Photo by Taylor Murray