Six years ago, Centro Hispano of Dane County introduced a new event, “Evening of Dreaming,” that would soon become a signature fundraiser for the organization with a goal of showcasing the diversity of Latino cultures in surprising, thought-provoking and whimsical ways.
A collaboration with PBS Wisconsin, the event over the past few years has featured award-winning author Reyna Grande, cutting-edge filmmaker Philip Rodriguez, local artists and chefs for a Pop-Up Exhibition, and the popular band Las Cafeteras. Tonight’s “Evening of Dreaming” will be, according to Centro Executive Director Karen Menéndez Coller, a “time to unwind and really take the reins on what it means to be Latinx in this community.”
“We really try to push the envelope with ‘Evening of Dreaming.’ We bring in filmmakers that tell a different side of the story. Two years ago, we had a concert at the Memorial Union with a band. That was so powerful for the community,” Menéndez Coller tells Madison365. “We try to break those stereotypes that sometimes become a little prevalent here. It’s a hybrid event that we’re having.”
At tonight’s event, participants will have an opportunity to listen and learn from a variety of talented chefs as they discuss different traditional dishes, and engage in an interactive, candid conversation around food appropriation, colonialism, and activism in regard to native culture. The event will feature live cooking and conversations alongside special guests — Chef Elena Terry and Chef Anthony Gallarday.
Titled “Decolonizing Dinner,” the event will, according to organizers, “encourage people to reclaim the power of our native food by returning to traditional practices and discuss the importance of traditional foods to Latino cultures and why it is important to rethink our connection to agriculture.”
Terry is the executive chef and founder of Wild Bearies. Terry has a passion for education through Indigenous foods and is the Food and Culinary Program Coordinator for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance. Terry also holds partnerships with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative and UW Horticulture Department.
Gallarday is a chef at Tavo’s Signature Cuisine. As a 10-year-old, he started his career while working alongside his father at many well-known restaurants in Milwaukee, including their own family restaurant. His focus throughout this time has been to be able to provide not only eye-catching dishes full of flavor and tradition, but to make them healthier as well.
“We are going to try to change the narrative around what it means to sit down and have dinner with each other and really be colonized and listen to each other talk about how we want to move forward as communities of color,” Menéndez Coller says. “So many things are put on us in this state and assumptions are made. We are put in boxes. The ‘Decolonizing Dinner’ talks a lot about food and their professions as chefs and about how they relied of food to heal, but also how we can move forward in conversations and take some cool actions.”
The event is sponsored by Park Bank, MGE, and Friends of PBS, with video production by Bravebird Films. It will also feature special guest Sujhey Beisser, founder of Five Senses Palate by Sujhey Beisser and a former board president of Centro Hispano.
The panel of guest speakers will be joined by hosts Menendez Coller and Luke Zahm, owner and chef of Driftless Cafe and television host of Wisconsin Foodie. They will discuss the importance of traditional foods to Latinx culture, according to a press release from Centro, and why it is important to rethink the connection to agriculture. They will also discuss how food is grown and cooked as a form of advocacy, a re-commitment to Indigenous foodways and the preservation of Latinx identity and roots.
“It’s going to be a really fun event. It’s a chance to break free as communities of color and really talk. Which doesn’t happen enough here in Madison,” Menéndez Coller says.
“Evening of Dreaming” is a fundraiser for Centro Hispano, whose mission to empower youth, strengthen families and engage the community in such a way that Dane County will be a community where Latino families can aspire upward, to reach their personal goals and dreams because they feel engaged and strengthened with the tools for success.
The event is open to the public and people are encouraged to register here.