Boost Your Cultural IQ

September 2019
Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

by Germán Velasco

Is there something innately human about being able to understand something faster, more clearly and more deeply? I began to look into Cultural Intelligence (abbreviated CQ) and found myself reading texts from psychology, anthropology and sociology. These disciplines — to different degrees — all study culture’s influence on human beings. Delving into these studies quickly became a fascinating adventure for me.

At this point, I can attest to the fact that CQ is true intelligence and, perhaps, the most useful form of intelligence there is. It is accessible to all. We can be smarter if we want. To understand CQ, first it is important to understand the impact of “culture.” Imagine for a moment that a culture is a transparent bubble, invisible to the eyes, but real. The purpose of this bubble is to group people together, no matter where they are. This bubble has no specific shape or size.

As an example, let’s talk about a bubble that groups the female teens in a school. Now, let’s imagine another bubble grouping the boys from that same school. If you have lived in these bubbles in your own life, you remember that in your teenage bubble you and your friends had your own ways of expressing yourselves; you had your own jokes, keywords, and stories that nobody else understood.

A person can be part of the bubble called “men” and, at the same time, belong to a larger bubble called “nationality” – all the while also belonging to other smaller bubbles such as bubbles for the place where he works, the sport he likes, and so on. This man’s bubbles make him see life a little or even much more differently than does his wife, who sees life from within the “women” bubble. Yet both share a worldview from the perspective of the “nationality” and the “parents” bubbles that they have in common.

How precise would our thinking be if we could ascertain what someone from another bubble sees? But how difficult this is, given that we don’t know the codes for that other bubble.

The point of this bubble exercise is to illustrate that our vision of reality—almost inescapably—will have to be different to some extent depending upon our point of view. That is, the bubble of culture influences our vision just as if that invisible membrane had the distorting effect of a lens.

Cultural Intelligence is the ability to see reality from one bubble, jump to the next bubble, see reality from there and then perhaps from other bubbles, and be able to accomplish this feat in an instant. Imagine the difference in perspective between the person with highly developed CQ versus the person who only looks at the world from one point of view. Those who have lived in different situations at different stages of their lives tend to develop better CQ. That’s why I highly recommend reaching out beyond your comfort zone: meet new people, change jobs, live in different places, learn another language, or change professions. All this change will help you to build a higher CQ. And this world needs people—especially leaders—with high CQ.

German Velasco is the Executive Director of La Mano Amiga, an educational nonprofit organization based in Colorado.

La Casita presents new exhibit: To The Streets

La Casita Cultural Center
109 Otisco St., Syracuse, NY 13204
September 2019
CONTACT: Luma Trilla – Tel. 315-443-2151

La Casita Cultural Center kicks off Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month 2019 with an exhibition program that explores urban culture, life in the barrios, graffiti, hip-hop, reggaeton, and the inner city Latinx communities.

SYRACUSE, NY: La Casita Cultural Center celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a grand opening full of music, dance and a new exhibit on September 13, 2019, starting at < 6:00pm. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. A traditional Caribbean menu and refreshments will be served. Opening will include special performances by Raíces dance troupe, and by Dominque’s Dance Creations. La Casita Cultural Center is located at 109 Otisco St, Syracuse NY, 13204.

A new exhibition titled “Pa’ La Calle” (To the Streets), presents the work of Syracuse-based, up and coming artist Bennie Guzmán. The opening reception will be the kick- off event for the 2019 Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative program at La Casita. As with previous annual exhibitions at La Casita, Pa’ la calle sets the central theme for a series of events and programs that will examine urban cultures, life in the barrio, street art, graffiti, hip-hop and reggaeton throughout the 2019-20 academic year. “I believe that art is the best way to start a conversation,” says Guzmán. “And I believe that for the youth in this community, where Hip-Hop, reggaeton and graffiti art are so prevalent, this is the language we need to use in order to have that conversation.”

“Pa’ la calle / To The Streets” features a collection of paintings, a series of portraits that recognize prominent Latinos and Latinas of Syracuse who are committed to the continued development and well-being of this community and who are enthusiastic partners in support of La Casita’s programs. Portraits include Gregorio Jimenez, executive director of the Near Westside Initiative; Bea Gonzalez, vice president of Community Engagement at Syracuse University; José Miguel Hernández Hurtado, artistic director of La Joven Guardia del Teatro Latino; Hugo Acosta and Marisol Hernández, publisher and editor in chief of CNY Latino, among other members of this community.

Guzmán also worked with a group of teens from the Westside and other local communities to create a mural inspired by the dreams and aspirations of these young talents in our Latinx community. The Spanish Action League’s One Team-One Dream youth program partnered in this project that was completed over the month of July this summer.
“This project is about engaging with our community in new ways,” said Guzman. “It’s about taking all the positive things that come from this community and putting them on display for everyone to see.”

Bennie Guzman’s work as an artist is dedicated to sharing the narratives and lived experiences of marginalized communities. He was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received a B.A. from Colgate University in Art & Art History, specializing in Studio Art and English. He is currently a member of the staff at La Casita in charge of media outreach and communications.

Lyrics of Reggaeton

The exhibition opening will be followed by a panel discussion titled “Letra del Reggaeton / Lyrics of Reggaeton” on October 16 starting at 6:00pm at La Casita. Admission will be free and open to the public. A group of SU scholars, faculty, students and local DJs will have an open dialogue about the controversial nature of hip-hop and reggaeton lyrics, the global impact on these genres in the music industry, and its undisputed success in conquering young markets in almost every culture worldwide. Panelists will include Syracuse University professors Todd Herreman, specialist in Music Industry; David Knapp, expert on Arab Hip-Hop; Biko Gray, author of Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues. They will be joined by Hasan Stephens, Director of Good Life Youth Foundation and professional DJ; Liamna Pestana Roche, student at Setnor School of Music who will talk about the ban on Reggaeton in her native Cuba, and Roberto Pérez, professional Latin music DJ and co-founder of La Familia de la Salsa.

How a local historical landmark is Supporting Latin Culture in Syracuse

by Maximilian Eyle

If you drive down James St. in Syracuse, you will come across a gorgeous piece of local history – the Barnes Hiscock Mansion. The house was built in 1853 by George and Rebecca Barnes and served as a part of the Underground Railroad. Both George and Rebecca were passionate abolitionists and used their wealth and resources to help fight against slavery and help escaped slaves. The Mansion, which has been beautifully preserved, is now serving as a venue for Syracuse’s Argentine Tango community. Each month, a public milonga (social dance) will be hosted there.

The Mansion is currently maintained and owned by the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation which was started in 2005 to preserve the house and its history. Despite being over 150 years old, it is in beautiful condition and stands as a reminder to Syracuse’s proud history as a center of the abolitionist movement. George and Rebecca Barnes fought hard against the Fugitive Slave Act, and even posted bail for those arrested during the famous Jerry Rescue of 1851. While preserving the history of the Mansion remains the primary purpose of the George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation, they have decided to allow part of the space to be used to support the local Argentine tango community.

Argentine tango also has a long history in Syracuse. It brings together an eclectic mix of dancers of varying ages, abilities, and backgrounds and even attracts dancers from Ithaca, Rochester, Buffalo, and other cities in New York State. They host a weekly práctica on Wednesday nights at the Sky Barn on the Syracuse University Campus, as well as their milonga which happens on the second Saturday of each month at the Barnes Hiscock Mansion.

It is exciting to see Syracuse’s local institutions supporting one another and joining together to encourage the appreciation of art and history in our community. The inclusion of tango into the legacy of the Mansion only adds to its diverse history, while also serving to educate dancers about that part of Syracuse history. For more information, please visit or

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at

Latino Village at the NYS Fair

by Miguel Balbuena

The event that many New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors alike have been impatiently waiting for about a year is finally just around the corner. The Latino Village at the Great New York State Fair is scheduled to take place this year between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2. Due to increased popular demand, it has been expanded one extra day from its initial three-day run during last year’s inaugural Latino Village, which, in turn, was the same amount of time that it stretched for under its original name, the seminal La Feria in the Fair, in 2017.

This longer footprint is a milestone toward achieving an objective stated by the Latino Village Superintendent Elisa Morales, who is also executive director of the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County.

In her welcoming message to last year’s event guests, Morales said: “I believe that Latinos add the spice to America’s melting pot. We are thrilled to share the beauty of Latino, Hispanic, Latinx culture, music and food with everyone. The New York State Fair has provided the perfect platform for Latino Village to create a unique cultural experience for all Fair goers. Everyone is welcome to join us for the fiesta. Our goal is to develop the area and expand our presence to all 13 days of the Fair.”

Fair Director Troy Waffner added, in a press release, that the Latino festival “helps us to show the diversity of our great state to all fairgoers. Hispanic and Latino people make up nearly one in every five New Yorkers and contribute wonderful things to our culture. We’re excited to see this celebration grow and prosper.”

Waffner and Morales arranged for some changes to be made in the format of this year’s Latino event, compared to the previous two, in which it was held on the opening weekend of the fair. Now it’s slated for the closing weekend plus Labor Day. In addition, the administration has moved the event’s venue from the western end of the fairgrounds, at the Empire Experience Stage, to a zone next to the Talent Showcase Stage, located in front of the 4-H Youth Building and close to the recently constructed Exposition Center. This 136,000-square foot building is advertised as “the largest expo facility north of New York City between Boston and Cleveland.”

Ursula Rozum, a neighbor from the predominantly-Puerto-Rican Near West Side in Syracuse, said that the placement of the Latino extravaganza during the past two years felt “marginalized” to her since it was situated in a distant corner of the fair.

The new site is likely to increase the fairgoers’ exposure to Latino culture as more foot traffic from passersby run into the Talent Showcase Stage.

There’s still time to find innovative ideas to promote civic engagement and public participation in regards to the New York State Fair. My proposal would be to organize a Naruto run with its starting line in Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse and its finishing line at the fair. The Clinton Square area already serves as the departing point for the annual Mountain Goat Run, which occurs on the first Sunday of May, and for the yearly Paige’s Butterfly Run, which happens on the second Saturday of June.

A Naruto run is a very peculiar way of racing, named after Naruto Uzumaki, a young Japanese ninja possessed by the spirit of the Nine-Tailed Fox. This anime and manga character has received special attention from both the print and digital media precisely because of his aforementioned peculiarity. USA Today described it as “running with his arms stretched out backward and his head forward”; Unilad described it as “running with his arms angled behind his body.”

A Naruto run to the fair would be a first in central New York and perhaps in the whole world, and an excellent way to enhance the visibility of the Great New York State Fair.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields
(in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

Young Heroes

by Elizabeth Ammirato

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from all across North America. Established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors a diverse group of 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people or the environment.  Fifteen top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or higher education. For more information, visit

Here are some recent winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes:

Alex Mancevski, age 17, of Austin, Texas founded a non-profit working to eradicate preventable diseases, especially pediatric Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. In the past two years, he has recruited 150 student volunteers from six local high schools to mentor 1,500 children each month at 20 elementary schools. His volunteers act as science coaches for underserved students, promoting health awareness and teaching the material needed for kids to participate in science fairs – a staple of the fourth- and fifth-grade curriculum nationwide, but an opportunity that many low-income students don’t have

Armando Pizano, age 18, of Chicago, Illinois created a tutoring program in Chicago to provide students in under-resourced communities with free weekly after-school tutoring and mentorship. His non-profit matches elementary students with high-achieving high school-age tutors. During the past school year, his program paired 100 tutors from five high schools with over 300 students at four elementary schools in the same neighborhoods. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Armando believes the high levels of crime, gang violence, and poverty that often
characterize his Back of the Yards neighborhood stem from a lack of academic support and scarcity of role models. His tutoring program addresses both issues.

Mercedes Thompson, age 17, of Baltimore, Maryland co-founded an organization to reduce trash and plastic pollution in their city on the Chesapeake Bay. In the past year, their non-profit of more than 500 students, many of them young people of color, has convinced the Baltimore City Council to pass a citywide ban on Styrofoam food containers. They’ve also convinced Baltimore Public Schools to switch to compostable lunch trays. Mercedes and her co-founder began their work two years ago after learning that Baltimore incinerates most of its trash, including plastics, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. They were also tired of seeing their school’s Styrofoam lunch trays floating in the waters of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The girls decided to take action.



The Origin of Summer Vacation Isn’t What You Think

by Maximilian Eyle

Kids all across America are out of school for the summer. The teachers are relieved, the children are ecstatic, and the parents are desperately trying to find another place to send them so they won’t spend the next few months running around the house. It’s a tradition that has existed for over a century, but most people are wrong about where it comes from.

The common story is that summer vacation is a relic from the days when most people were farmers and we had an agricultural economy. Because parents needed their children to help out on the farm, school had to end during the summer months. Yet this theory does not quite make sense when you break it down. The two busiest times on a farm are the spring, (when you plant), and the fall, (when you harvest). Our current system has kids in school during both of these times. So why do we have summer vacation? The truth has to do with temperature, and the increase in city populations that happened at the end of the 19th century.

During the 1800s, school was not mandatory nor was there a standard school year. It was also normal to have breaks during the planting and harvest season. But as more and more people moved to the cities, schools were becoming hot, crowded, and miserable during the hottest months. Parents were also eager to leave the heat in favor of greener pastures. When the government decided to standardize school calendars, they decided to make summer a time for students to relax and teachers to prepare for the upcoming year.

Just because summer vacation stems from high temperatures instead of farming does not make it any less outdated. In an age of air conditioning, this is no longer an issue. While long summer vacations can allow students to immerse themselves in long-term projects or jobs during this time, it is also long enough for them to forget much of what they learned over the past year. As we learn more about the conditions in which children learn best, it may make sense to move toward having more frequent but shorter vacations. Do you have any thoughts about this? If so, submit them to

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at

Do not give, teach them the road and hands ready to work!

by Lilia M. Fiallo


We all have intelligence, common sense to get our livelihood and to give us pleasure in what we want!

Mirtha was working for more than 30 years as a Secretary of a solid factory management in the capital. She lived well, in her parents’ house, with her four unmarried siblings. One day, she decided to join a charitable foundation, providing a monthly amount.

A few years later, at a meeting of which were used in that institution, Mirtha proposed, to buy two homes, and give them to families that appear to be in need. Studied and approved the proposal by all board members, they gave way to the project to crystallize it.

Beatrice, a woman head of household, mother of four children, unmarried, was selected first, to deliver a simple, habitable house in perfect condition, with all the furniture and belongings documents in rule that demonstrate she was now the owner. The day came and the formal delivery took place, but the one that was happier for this event was Mirtha.

Two years had perhaps passed, when one day, Mirtha with some members of the foundation were near Beatrice’s house, and decided to go visit her. They hoped to see her happy enjoying a reality with which many dream, having a home!

They knocked twice. When Beatrice answered the call and opened the door; all smiling, they hoped to be invited to come in, but they were surprised, when she scolded them saying: “I would have been more grateful if you would have not given me anything, I´m fed up and tired of paying bills (electricity, water, telephone, gas)”.

Everyone secretly looked appalled, while their eyes had traveled the enclosure. The picture was of abandonment, there was dirt, clothes everywhere, and you couldn´t see the furniture was damaged. The visitors turned and left, as they walked speechless, someone broke the silence and said: what will the abandonment in which the children will be like?

May 17 at 5:30pm in Las Margaritas Lina says to Sofia. Look what happened to me. One thing is to respect and be consider with people, and another very different, is that some people believe, that when someone with kindness and humility, gives them a hand, a phase of encouragement, they confused it and want to abuse. My friendship is purely human and my presents are not of this world because my budget doesn´t allow me. The last time I visited to Juana, I promised myself to never go back, because abysmal I was, when she said, that if bring her something she needed, it had to be the brand that she indicated to me. However, I soon forgot it and again when she did not answer the phone, I went to visit her.

Today I think that I will hardly return. Had not noticed that while I spoke to her, she observed what I  wore and she interrupted to say: “Look at this watch I have one the table, it was given to me a boyfriend I had, I´m selling it and if someone gives me a third of what it costs” I sell it, it´s gold. I naively took it, looked at her and saw that it was no big deal. Fast mind I have, gave me the answer. Ah! Is my bracelet that appears to be fine; my ring. –a little fair-, is mounted on the ring so that it cannot fall, it looks like a great jewel, that´s why she is offering me that watch! I thought… Actually, I found out the value of the famous watch, and new, it does not cost even a third of what Juana wanted. Which fantasy and which lack of genuineness of some beings, that confused and believe that the unwary and compassionate to be is his instruments of time, says Sofia. That is why it is difficult to find authentic hearts, thoughts and good feelings. I´m not like you, I do not gift anything, because God gave us intelligence and hands ready-to-work.

Lilia M. Fiallo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where, between tasks and free time, she found a place to write about subjects, somehow forgotten by others. With gold letters engraved in her memory, she began her working life, in the heart of the technical part, of the air traffic control of her native country. In the midst of aeronautical phraseology and codes, the world of aviation gave her one of the highest experiences, because of the precision required by this craft, where a single mistake could cost many lives. It is there, where in her concern to communicate her ideas, she begins to write with dedication, themes a little relegated by society, the Church and the State. Discovering a truth that nobody wants to talk about, but much more real and every day, than it seems. It is thus, as it appears, her first work, “Parir por parir”. You can find her book at for sale in Amazon and if you want to connect with her send her an email to