Immigrant literature class goes on cultural awareness field trip

Seniors Quinn Elsenbast, Emma Bearson, Mia Rheineck and Anna Kocourek pick out pastries at Mercado Central.

Courtesy of Katie Belanger

Seniors Quinn Elsenbast, Emma Bearson, Mia Rheineck and Anna Kocourek pick out pastries at Mercado Central.

Flint Frohman, Staff Writer

On March 4th, Mrs. Katie Belanger’s Immigrant Literature class experienced an all-day field trip across the Twin Cities, visiting immigrant communities in an effort to gain a greater sense of cultural awareness.

The class visited a multitude of locations, including Mercado Central, the American Swedish Institute, the Historic Turnblad Mansion, the MN Historical Center, the Hmong Market Place, and listened to Mr. McMerty-Brummer speak in the Chapel to finish the day. “I call this the immigrant literature cultural awareness field trip, and we certainly cannot hit every cultural hotspot in the Twin Cities but I like to touch on places that might be new to the student and shed light on certain immigrant communities to dispel the stereotype or the myth about them,” Immigrant Literature teacher Mrs. Belanger said.

I call this the immigrant literature cultural awareness field trip, and we certainly cannot hit every cultural hotspot in the Twin Cities but I like to touch on places that might be new to the student and shed light on certain immigrant communities to dispel the stereotype or the myth about them.”

— Mrs. Katie Belanger

They started the day off in the Mercado Central market on Lake Street, an area that gives a strong feel of the Latin American community in Minneapolis. “It’s an insight into this community that most people unless they’re seeking particular services, wouldn’t enter or know about. We’re going basically just for the amazing food, and we’re going to grab breakfast,” Belanger said. 

The trip continued to a modern museum, the American Swedish Institute. Right next to that location is the Historic Turnblad Mansion, a home built by an immigrant family. The owner of it owned the largest Swedish-language newspaper in the US. “There’s Nordic gifts, jewelry, art classes, there’s a cafe called Fica,” Belanger said.

After that, they visited the Minnesota Historical Center and learned about a wide variety of immigrant groups in Minnesota. “We [learned] about the Somali community, the Hmong community, the Latino community; particularly the Mexican immigrants, Russian Orthodox, and Swedes,” Belanger said.

They continued to the Hmongtown Marketplace, where they had a late lunch and experienced all the market has to offer. “It’s similar to Mercado Central in that it’s a larger building housing many different vendors; Hmongtown Marketplace has fresh produce, but it also has vendors selling traditional dress, Shaman tools, herbs, and spices,” Belanger said.

At the end of the trip, students heard from Spanish teacher Mr. McMerty-Brummer about his experience living in Guatemala. “He and his wife worked at an orphanage in Guatemala and were teaching there,” Belanger said.

The trip was done to gain experience and get an idea of the people who live in our community so that projects and assignments in the future can be seen through the lens of new experience. “We spend the whole first month of immigrant literature laying down sort of a mini-social justice unit where we talk about identity, and community, language, and power, race, gender, faith, all of these intersections of our society that otherwise might separate us. We look at what the definition of being an American is and how that has shifted over time and we relate it to our own experience of being an American,” Belanger said.

At the end of the day, the trip was done so that students can see firsthand the immigrant communities in the Twin Cities. “I want them to gain an awareness and appreciation for immigrant cultures in our own community, perhaps an interest in returning to these places now that they’ve been there and know where they are… to bridge those gaps and meet people in our community who might be different than us,” Belanger said.