To walk from the Southeast Asian homes of Hmong people to those in Ethiopia would take more than just a few steps, but on Saturday, that was all that was needed to learn a little about each culture.
The 10th annual Walk Around the World event, sponsored by the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, drew people from around the region and cultures from across the world to Rochester Community and Technical College to celebrate the contributions and success of Rochester’s immigrant community.
The day featured cultural exhibits, food, art, dance, music and singing from all corners of the globe.
For Eden Yiglletu, who stood behind a table displaying items from Ethiopia, the event was a way to spread knowledge about her culture and heritage to the people of Rochester.
“We want to show, since we are a really small community here, we want to show what our different cultures look like,” she said, adding that she frequently is asked where she is from. Often, people don’t know where Ethiopia is located.
Rochester resident Elia Zambrano brought her 5-year-old son Eli Lopez and her 11-month-old daughter Everly Lopez to the event along with her mother, Juanita Zambrano. Elia Zambrano said she wanted her son to experience different cultures and to learn a little bit about them, too.
“He is Latino and I wanted him to know a little bit more outside of the Latino culture so he can understand other backgrounds,” she said. “I think it is a great way for him to see what else is out there.”
At a table displaying items from Mexico, Gina Ledesma and friends chatted with visitors and waited for their turn to perform. Wearing a white flowing dress and a red-and-white flower headband, Ledesma performed to Son Jarocho, a style of folk music from the state of Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ledesma and her group have been coming to the annual event for about five years. When asked why they kept coming back, each member had a different answer.
“To show the people how colorful we are,” Ana Velazquez said. “We are happy people, friendly people and we just want to share it with the people.”
“Everybody knows Mexico because they love enchiladas and tacos, but that’s not Mexico,” Ledesma said. “It’s more.”
Behind the Buddhist Support Society table stood Savoeun Keo. It was his second time at the event having arrived to Rochester from Cambodia over a year ago. He said he liked being able to meet people coming from different cultures and countries.
“When someone smiles at me, I smile at them,” he said. “We are happy together.”
It was also a chance, he said, to practice his English as people came up to inquire about the items on display.
The event in Rochester was just one of many taking part across the country and the world as part of World Refugee Day. Marked on the calendar for June 20, this World Refugee Day the United Nations Refugee Agency challenged everyone to join together and take a step with refugees.
According to the U.N., nearly 71 million people are forcibly displaced as of this June. Of that number, approximately 20.4 million were refugees under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ mandate.