Initiative lead (Líder de la iniciativa): Greg Shaheen
Comida y tierra is a Spanish immersion conversation series that takes place in Mexican and Central American restaurants in Kingston. Participants eat a meal together and discuss local land use initiatives. We hold this space to elevate community voices in Spanish and facilitate community building.
Spanish Level: Participants identify their level of Spanish fluency and then are assigned to tables according to their level (beginner, intermediate, advanced). We invite native Spanish speakers to sit at each table to act as facilitators, providing language support and helping to guide the conversation with prompts that we provide. The entire event is facilitated only in Spanish (use of English is discouraged, as we are aiming to create an immersive environment).
Cost: The event is free and open to the public, but we do collect a $20-30 suggestion donation at the door ($10-15 for the participants buffet meal, and $10-15 to cover the meal of native Spanish speakers, who provide volunteer language facilitation at each table).
In between events, you can use our Comida y tierra Facebook page as forum to organize English or Spanish language meet-ups or exchanges, or post language resources for the community.
The dinners range from 30-50 attendees, with native Spanish speakers representing anywhere from a quarter to more than a third of those who participate. Each table of four can count on one or two native Spanish speakers to lead the conversation and provide language support to those who are practicing Spanish.
Each Comida y tierra has a different theme around which the conversation will be centered. Themes in the past have been use of outdoor space for recreation, the Kingston Greenline, contributing to Kingston’s Open Space Plan and urban agriculture. Spanish-speaking staff and board members from the Kingston Land Trust give a short introduction to the theme and join the smaller groups to work with the native Spanish speakers to facilitate conversation. There are also materials on the tables such as maps, photos, and conversation starter handouts.
As part of the Comida y tierra series, the Kingston Land Trust produced outreach and informational materials in Spanish about upcoming Kingston Greenline projects and the City of Kingston’s Open Space Plan in order remove the language barrier that often discourages the hispanic population of Kingston from participating in public process.
Comida y tierra is building a base of trust and new cross-cultural relationships. Through this effort, the Kingston Land Trust has identified volunteer interpreters to attend relevant public meetings so that those who speak Spanish as their dominant language (15% of the population of Kingston) can participate. In addition to learning from our growing and diverse base, we will be able to engage the Comida y tierra attendees in public input into future Kingston Land Trust projects, as well as our board of directors.
Come back to the Hispanic restaurants and continue to engage with Kingston’s vibrant and friendly Spanish-speaking community.
There is a Comida y tierra Facebook page that allows participants to stay in touch with each other and post resources in between events, as well as a place for the Kingston Land Trust to provide Spanish-language outreach on other initiatives and events in Kingston.
Most of the Kingston Land Trust events are bilingual, with Spanish interpretation available, and are advertised as such. Thus, attending other Kingston Land Trust events is another way to continue to engage with Kingston’s Spanish-speaking community, oftentimes in an outdoor environment.
The program was launched in the Spring of 2017 as a join initiative of the Kingston Land Trust, led by Julia Farr, and the YMCA Farm Project, led by KayCee Wimbish. During the first year, Comida y tierra events were monthly and took place as community picnics in addition to restaurants.