Coloradans explore Spanish language, Mexican culture in Baja California Sur

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“Our first Spanish and Culture Immersion Course was a great success,” said Olaf Morales, languages coordinator at the CSU Todos Santos Center in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Morales designed the Spanish & Culture Immersion course for people interested in learning Spanish and experiencing Mexican culture first-hand. The six-day course brought 21 participants from Colorado to Mexico to expand their Spanish language skills and cultural understanding.

Lessons covered a range of basic expressions and vocabulary, enabling participants to exchange personal information, ask for directions, order food at a restaurant, and communicate physical and emotional states.

Emily Lambrecht-Steele, 55, attended the course with her sister Vicki, primarily to improve her understanding of the Spanish language.

“This was an amazing experience, learning in a style that is new for me,” said Lambrecht-Steele. “It allowed me to hear and learn ‘real-world’ Spanish.”

Dr. Alicia Cook, professor emeritus of Human Development and Family Studies at CSU, called the course an “excellent learning experience.” Cook emphasized Morales’ “exceptional skills and enthusiasm” and shared her appreciation for the variety of activities and active learning approach that contributed to the program’s successful delivery.

Exploring culture, embracing tradition

Language learning was only one aspect of the course. The cultural curriculum included an overview of the history of Todos Santos, a turtle hatchling release with Grupo Tortuguero de Todos Santos A.C., a visit to the nearby Rancho Santo Domingo, and a traditional Día de Muertos celebration.

“The cultural engagement was very important for the development of the program,” said Morales. “Students were really immersed in the language while they learned about Todos Santos history.”

For Dr. Melissa Edwards, associate director of CSU’s Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry, learning about Mexican culture was a highlight of the experience.

“I absolutely loved the cultural components: the ranch, cultural center, Las Tortugas, preparation for and involvement in Día de Muertos!” Edwards said.

Morales included Día de Muertos as one of the course’s primary culturally immersive experiences. Participants learned about traditional altars by crafting their own in the main plaza of the Todos Santos Center, complete with paper marigold (cempasúchil) flowers. Mexican families commemorate deceased loved ones during the annual holiday.

“Participants really enjoyed learning about not only Día de Muertos in Mexico but also what it represents for the Mexican culture,” said Morales.

Morales noted that Día de Muertos takes places over multiple days in Mexico, celebrating both life and death. Mexican families commemorate deceased loved ones during the annual holiday.

On the final night at the CSU Todos Santos Center, the group received completion certificates and attended a closing event with tropical music from a prominent Mexican band, La Sonora Santanera.

“I personally feel very happy to have met wonderful and enthusiastic people during a very intense week filled with activities, culture, and a lot of learning,” said Morales. “We are ready for next year’s program.”

About the Colorado State University Todos Santos Center

Located in Baja California Sur, Mexico, CSU Todos Santos Center serves as the University’s international hub, providing research and educational opportunities in alignment with existing University curricula.

Advancing CSU’s mission of teaching, research, service, and outreach, the Center collaborates with Mexican universities and organizations, and provides workshops and programs for visitors and local residents.

CSU’s vision in Todos Santos is to cultivate generations of global citizens and to partner in the creation of thriving communities through experiential learning and the exchange of knowledge.

For additional information, visit todossantos.colostate.edu.