Gilbert is the world this weekend. The third annual Gilbert Global Village Festival will bring together the cultures of about 30 countries, including Australia, Pakistan, Haiti, Ireland and Russia.
The festival is a celebration of Gilbert’s growing diversity. “We’re no longer a white, Anglo-Saxon community, and we’re very proud of that,” says festival founder Elizabeth Cress-Sweet. “We are the multicultural town of Gilbert.”
Featured at the festival will be the music, cuisine and dances of Spain, India, Ireland, Mexico and the Philippines. A parade of nations featuring Gilbert schoolchildren will begin at 11 a.m., and an international bazaar will sell imports from India and Mexico. “Culture doesn’t always mean different shades of color,” says Cress-Sweet. “It also means different ways of life. We celebrate the variety.”
Nothing brings people together better than food. You can learn a lot about a group of people by the food they eat.
“It tells you what kind of lifestyle you have,” says Barbara Fenzl, cookbook author and the owner of Les Gourmettes Cooking School. “Long, drawn-out meals tells you families have the time to do that. Ingredients tell you about the climate they live in.”
So when you stop by the festival, pay attention to the food. You might learn something about your neighbors. Greek: One of the oldest cuisines in Europe. Spanakopita, tiropita, dolmades — the words are hard to pronounce, but the dishes are delightful. These signature dishes (spinach pie, cheese pie and stuffed grape leaves, respectively) and a block of feta are staples on the Greek dinner table.
Chinese: The cuisine is as geographically varied as the country itself. Food is symbolic for the Chinese. Long rice noodles are served at special occasions because they symbolize a long life. Colors are also very important — white is purity, red is good luck.
Italian: Tomatoes came to Italy from the New World, so there were none in Italian cuisine before Columbus. Pasta is a first course, not the entree. And pizza wasn’t invented in Italy.
Southwest: Originally, Southwestern cuisine was what the natives ate. The modern variant is a combination of all the cultures that have come to live in this desert region. Europeans brought flour and cattle. Mexicans contributed tomatoes, chilies and chocolate. Southwestern food is typically grilled and features indigenous ingredients.
American barbecue: Kentucky barbecue, Tennessee barbecue — those who would put on an apron and fire a grill are among the most competitive chefs in the country. Every region has its own ideas about the best way to fire a grill and cook meat.
When most people see dance, they view the movement through their own cultural lens.
“And that’s perfectly fine,” says Pegge Vissicaro, interim chairwoman of the dance department at Arizona State University’s Herberger College of the Arts. “Dance is a microcosm of the total culture.”
Several dance groups will perform this weekend. Festivalgoers might watch the movements with an eye on the similarities rather than the differences.
“It’s what brings people together,” says Vissicaro. “We’re really not that different in that respect.” India: Often based on Hindu philosophy and texts, Indian dance tells a story through the articulation of the hands and facial movements. “Every one of those gestures and eye movements are rich with meaning,” says Vissicaro.
Philippines: This island nation’s dances reveal three influences — Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. “You’ve got this infusion of three very different worldviews and ideologies,” says Vissicaro. “It’s a powerful thing.” Spain: You tend to think of flamenco as Spanish in origin, but its roots are in India. Gypsy travelers wandering across western Asia and into Europe brought this dramatic dance to Andalusia, a province in southern Spain. Flamenco is dramatic and often accompanied by a guitar.
Third annual Gilbert Global Village Festival
What: Celebration of Gilbert’s diversity
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: 50 E. Civic Center Campus, North Campus
Information:(480) 503-6895 or www.ci.gilbert.az.us/calendar