Barry McNamara  |  Published January 28, 2022

‘Casa Sol’

New Monmouth College series, which kicks off Feb. 2-3, to focus on mental health, Hispanic cuisine.

CASA SOL: The organizers of the new series include, from left, Elissa Leguizamo '24, Jessica ... CASA SOL: The organizers of the new series include, from left, Elissa Leguizamo '24, Jessica Rico '24 and professor Francisco Angeles.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Throughout the spring semester, Monmouth College will host a “Casa Sol” series of events designed to help the campus community explore the region’s growing Hispanic community.

The series will feature two subjects – mental health and Hispanic cuisine – each divided into four regular sessions.

Cindy Beadles, the College’s director of counseling and accessibility services, will host four sessions titled “Breaking Our Silence: Mental Health Awareness for Hispanics.” The sessions will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall. The initial session will be Feb. 2, with others to follow on Feb. 23, March 23 and April 27.

The mental health sessions are designed to bring awareness to the struggles faced by first-generation Latino students. Beadles and Monmouth students will explore several themes, with activities allowing students to relieve stress by discussing their feelings and expressing their creativity.

“I didn’t know I had anxiety or depression until I went to college. Things would come up in some of my classes, and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I do that, too.’” Jessica Rico

After an introductory session with icebreakers for the first session, Beadles will delve into the issue of identity for the second session. Alumni of the College will participate in the third session, sharing their Monmouth experiences, while the final session will focus on the future as it relates to mental health.

Monmouth student Jessica Rico ’24 of Belvidere, Illinois, pitched the idea of providing such a series, based on her own experiences.

“I didn’t know I had anxiety or depression until I went to college,” said Rico, who is studying psychology with the goal of becoming a school counselor or social worker. “Things would come up in some of my classes, and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I do that, too.’”

Rico visited the College’s Counseling Center, which has been productive, but she said family members “brushed it off,” when she told them she was getting help.

CASA SOL: The name of the series is also the name of a space on the third floor of McMichael Acad... CASA SOL: The name of the series is also the name of a space on the third floor of McMichael Academic Hall.That’s not surprising, said Monmouth professor Francisco Ángeles, one of the organizers of the programming for Casa Sol (Sun House). The name Casa Sol derives from a new area on the third floor of McMichael Academic Hall, where Ángeles and a group of 12 students are developing a safe space for Latinos.

”Many people from Latin American countries are exactly as Jessica described,” he said. “They don’t take it seriously or treat it as a taboo subject. Parents aren’t able to provide any guidance on mental health because they don’t realize how important it is in their lives.”

‘La Cena del Sol’

Latin American foods will be the other area of focus in a series titled “La Cena del Sol” (The Supper of the Sun). The series will meet at 5 p.m. on select Thursdays in the Morgan Room, starting Feb. 3. Other dates are Feb. 24, March 17 and April 21.

Students who participated in last summer’s Latin American Food Project through the College’s SOFIA undergraduate research program will prepare and discuss some of their favorite recipes. Faculty members Ángeles, Amy de Farias and Jennifer Thorndike, who all have expertise in Latin American cuisine, will also participate.

Up first are the foods of Cuba, featuring ropa vieja and maduros (shredded beef in a rich vegetable sauce, served with fried sweet plantains). Ángeles will lead the session, receiving help in the kitchen from Monmouth students, including political science major Elissa Leguizamo ’24 of Chicago, Rico’s roommate.

“Mexican food like tacos, tortas and burritos are integrated into American culture. But nobody really knows the other cultures, like the foods of Venezuela, Brazil and Peru.” Elissa Leguizamo

“Mexican food like tacos, tortas and burritos are integrated into American culture,” she said, citing the fast-food chain Taco Bell as an example. “But nobody really knows the other cultures, like the foods of Venezuela, Brazil and Peru,” which will be the other three countries featured in the series.

“It’s important to have an excuse to get together, even if it’s just over chopping onions or whatever,” said Ángeles of one benefit of the series. Another benefit, he said, is learning more about each of the featured countries’ history and culture.

“So there will be an educational side to it, too, although we won’t go too deep into it,” he said.

Games will also be a part of the “La Cena del Sol” gatherings, perhaps starting with dominoes, which is played regularly throughout Cuba, said Ángeles.

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