xCultural Passport: The most diverse week in Philadelphia
A week before Philadelphia will be consumed by the visit of Pope Francis comes the ultimate celebration of diversity in the city.
xCultural Passport returns from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20 to continue its established tradition of celebrating immigrant heritage and fostering deeper connections between U.S.-born citizens, immigrants, and persons of diverse backgrounds.
The festival was launched by the Mayor's Office for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (MOIMA) in 2013, under Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, in order to foster and promote the welfare of all immigrant communities in the city.
Since its inception the office has been led by Jennifer Rodriguez, as executive director and Fernando Trevino as deputy director.
"Very intentionally we wanted to make sure we cover a wide range of communities and organizations. This is an opportunity for the immigrant community to get to know other institutions in the city of Philadelphia, " Rodriguez said to AL DÍA.
The itinerary starts on Saturday, Sept. 12th with an Access to Capital Workshop presented by the Mayor's Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs. The event will be held at the Enterprise Center (4548 Market Street) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The workshop is free but registration is required.
Then on Sunday, Sept. 14 several celebrations honoring Hispanic Heritage Month will be held throughout the city, including the commemoration and celebration of Mexican Independence Day at Penn's Landing (part of the PECO Multicultural Series).
North Philly will revive one of the great traditions of the Philadelphia Latino community, celebrating the 31st Feria del Barrio. That same day the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden will host a Japanese Tea Ceremony lead by Urasenke Tea School.
One of the new features this year is the addition of New Americans Tour with Visit Philly, a self-guided walking tour for new citizens and those studying to be citizens, through the sites and attractions that tell the story of the nation's founding.
The large community of Philly Foodies will be thrilled to learn that xCultural Passport will also celebrate the growing international cuisine that has revitalized the Philadelphia’s restaurant scene.
The first event will be held at Reading Terminal Market Sept. 15, with cooking demonstrations at City Kitchen throughout the day. Residents are invited to join in the celebration of "International Food Day,” and social media users will be able to share their best ethnic food photos from around town through the hashtags #PhillyMOIMA #xculturalPHL and #MOIMAsips.
"There are two things that I think about most frequently. Number one is what is good for immigrants is good for everybody. When we as a society pay attention, care and ensure the welfare of our most vulnerable communities — and immigrants often fall in that category — in many ways we are also taking care of ourselves," Rodriguez said.
As for her experience as the executive director of MOIMA and her collaboration with Nutter, Rodriguez said she could not feel more grateful for the opportunity.
"Mayor Nutter has been incredibly supportive of the work that we do, he has been present. The resources that we have asked have been provided to us, in order to collaborate with a lot of people and do things that are difficult to achieve," Rodriguez said.
She added that is easy to say you are welcoming but “it is hard to stand at the podium and you really still need to put in the effort and the sweat.”
"I've also learned that immigrants are really not very different from anybody else. Immigrants want safety, they want autonomy, freedom, the basic needs that everybody has,” Rodriguez said. “There are some peculiarities from the immigrant experience, but ultimately undocumented, documented and U.S. citizens, they want the same things. At the very core we are all humans.
“What I value most about this work is it really touches that, it is a work that ensures that our society lives up to the values that we claim that we have, "Rodriguez said.
Most events during xCultural Passport are free, some require registration due to space limitations.