Cultural Heritage Showcase highlights so many of Port Arthur’s cultures; event set Oct. 14

Published 12:06 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

Is Australia a bit like Texas? In some ways it is, and not just because it’s big, Michael Laws of Ecowerks says.

“Australia is kind of divided into two parts. You’ve got the cities, which are incredibly cosmopolitan in general and tend to lean much more toward liberal and social values. Country and industrial areas are conservative and traditional,” Laws said.

“Cities are as big and modern and shiny as anywhere in the world. The country is just hard-working people making a living. The culture matches with Texas culture,” he said.

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The land mass is U.S.-sized but more sparsely populated. There are lush, green tropical rainforests, snow-capped mountains and some of the most hostile deserts in the world, Laws said of his homeland.

“There’s massive variety, depending on where you are,” said Laws, who was born to German immigrants.

It’s the people of Australia and Texas that could be most alike. It’s a Texas kind of spirit, he said.

“There’s a fierce independence, loyalty and support for your family. One of my favorite things about Texas is sir or ma’am. Every person you meet is a sir or ma’am until they prove themselves unworthy of that respect,” he said.

Michael Laws knows The City of Port Arthur is rich with culture, and residents from all across the world have made Port Arthur their home.

The Quasquicentennial Committee welcomes all to the Cultural Heritage Showcase Oct. 14 at Bob Bowers Civic Center, 3401 Cultural Center Drive in Port Arthur, for a showcase of multicultural diversity.

Mexico – So Many States

Gloria Sanchez, a showcase organizer, says the event is designed to bring the community together.

“I feel like it is an opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better. Where are you coming from? What do you eat in your country? The more people who are here together the more we can learn about each other,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez has a Mexican background and says there is always much to learn even from her own country, which is made up of 31 states and a federal district. Each group has their own words for similar things.

Take the tamale, for instance. In Southeast Texas we are familiar with savory meats wrapped in corn husks. Other regions may secure theirs in banana leaves or use a sweeter blend inside. In some areas, a single “tamal” is huge and designed to feed several people.

“Not everybody knows this,” Sanchez said.

Italy has an important rock

John Chirafis had four grandparents from Sicily, but didn’t dive into his history until he was an adult.

“The parents, they didn’t want you to speak Italian. You were an American,” he said.

Then, he went to Italy. To Sicily specifically.

“It’s an island, basically. It’s volcanic with beautiful beaches and in the center it’s all farming… wheat for the pasta and grapes for the wine. The food is wonderful there,” he said.

Chirafis said Sicily was considered an important “rock” because it was a coveted port site for trade.

When he did stay with those Sicilian relatives, they didn’t speak the same language, but everyone communicated beautifully, he said.

Caribbean – Antigua and Barbuda

Some beaches are for families, others are for couples. Tatika Hodge says Antigua and Barbuda offer 365 beaches, one for every day of the year.

Her voice sounds joyous when she talks about the sand, the shells and islands. She says it’s no wonder celebrities are drawn to visit and live there. Some of those beaches are accessible by boat, so she hasn’t made it to them all.

But that’s her plan.

Hodge moved there as a teen and married into the culture, which has cricket games. Vivian Richards is a famous player there, she said.

Fungi and saltfish are traditional meals she recalls with fondness. She also enjoys a good pepperpot with spinach, eggplant, okra and table squash.

Hodge is ready for the beach and to praise Antigua and Barbuda. But she’s also proud of her homeland, Guyana. That land is also beautiful and rich in timber, oil and gold.

India – “It’s the love they put in there.”

Rohini Rai has a surprise and a secret about India.

She said it’s a surprise what will actually be in the booth. She expects fun facts to be displayed and said she will let us in on a little secret.

“India is not as conservative as people think,” the Lamar University computer science major said.

Families are supportive of one another and food is one way to express love. Each mother – actually each member of the family – may have a particular blend of curry or other spice blend that makes a dish their own signature, said Rai, who has lived in this area for two years.

“It’s the love they put in there,” she said.

When asked to describe her own blend, she had one word: “Spicy.”