A celebration of home for local immigrants

Food and fun in Central Park

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It felt as though little pieces of countries had been plunked down next to each other in Central Park Sunday as hundreds of people played soccer, had their faces painted, fished with magnets, and perused stalls that displayed clothes, jewellery, and food from around the world.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/06/2011 (4172 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It felt as though little pieces of countries had been plunked down next to each other in Central Park Sunday as hundreds of people played soccer, had their faces painted, fished with magnets, and perused stalls that displayed clothes, jewellery, and food from around the world.

Immigrants to Canada flourished the colours and quirks of their native lands for an ‘Immigration Celebration’ of new arrivals to Winnipeg.

Five bands played everything from Latin ballads to urban hip hop.

BORIS.MINKEVICH@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Diana Arizala shows off jewelry at the Colombian tent with her husband Erik and son Kevin in Central Park Sunday.

At the stalls scattered around the park on Edmonton Street in the heart of downtown, immigrants expressed both delight with their new country and deep pride for their native one.

Over at the Colombian stall, Diana Arizala called Canada “the best country in the world,” but she spoke longingly of all the vibrant colours in her homeland, from the clothes to the walls of houses, and the natural beauty of the rivers, mountains, and plants. “There are 3,000 different orchids,” she said. “I keep Colombia in my heart.”

Arizala came to Canada to find better opportunities for her children. She now works as a chef at a Greek restaurant.

Genet Kassay, at the Ethiopian stall, said she appreciated the chance to celebrate her culture. Ethiopians, she said, are a proud people, never colonized, but also shy and soft-spoken. “People ask us twice, to understand what we’re saying,” she said.

Kassay said it was also strange for her to look strangers in the eye, something never done in Ethiopia.

Kassay missed the “13 months of sunshine” in her home country — that’s how many months there are in the Ethiopian calendar year — and said that she likes Canada because “you can keep your culture and your beliefs intact.”

At the Afghanistan stall, Shakila Atayee was working to convey the real culture and natural beauty of her native country, as opposed to associations with war and terrorism.

She called her native culture very traditional — for instance, a man can shake hands with a woman only in certain places and only in certain circumstances — but that culture is also very welcoming.

“If you go somewhere, they don’t ask you who you are or where you are from. Guests are God’s friends,” she said.

Canada is similar, in a way, she said. “You never feel that you are a foreigner in Canada.”

The Immigration and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba organized the event. Many of the immigrants at the celebration live or previously lived in the subsidized housing the organization provides.

Event organizer Erin Anderson said immigration gives the area new life: “I think it makes the neighbourhood better and more vibrant.”

william.burr@freepress.mb.ca

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