Conference aims to promote cultural harmony

The conference features a shorter Youth Track session offered for high school students. Workshops, panel discussions and breakout sessions will all be part of the conference.

Leigh Black Irvin
Marriage and family therapist Charles Stacey talks about how families function in different cultures at his office on Monday. Stacey will be presenting a workshop called “Discovering Your Individual Family Culture” at the Creating Cultural Harmony Conference Friday at San Juan College.

FARMINGTON — The Creating Cultural Harmony Conference on Friday at San Juan College will offer participants an opportunity to expand their cultural horizons.

This is the 18th time the conference, which takes place every other year, has been held, said organizer Pamela Drake, executive director of San Juan County Partnership.

"The purpose of the conference is to celebrate the cultures in our area, and to bring awareness of different cultures so people can understand them better," Drake said.

The theme of this year's conference is "Celebrating Family Cultures and the Culture of Families," and consists of keynote presentations, workshops and breakout sessions.

"One of presentations will be a panel consisting of a local Hispanic, Native American, African American and Scottish person," said Drake. "They will talk about the traditions of their personal cultures."

Representing the Hispanic culture on the panel is David Flores, who serves as the teen services coordinator at the Farmington Public Library.

"I grew up on a farm, so I will be sharing the cultural aspects of growing up in that type of environment," said Flores.

Flores said that when he was growing up, each year his community came together to clean out neighborhood irrigation ditches, a New Mexico tradition that has been practiced by Hispanics for more than 400 years.

"Each year we would select one boss that we called the ditch-rider, or "mayordomo," he said. "The mayordomo would organize the group of men, and for several days we would burn weeds and do the repairs that needed to be done, also helping out widows and the elderly with their ditches."

Flores said that in modern times, pipes have been installed in many of the "lateral" or main portions of ditches, which has made the neighborhood ditch-cleaning gathering obsolete.

"It has kind-of taken out that aspect of community," he said, adding that he will also talk about a yearly trip he took as a child to his grandfather's farm to thin out pinto bean plants, along with his cousins.

One of the workshops at the conference will be Discovering Your Individual Family Culture, facilitated by Charles Stacey, a local licensed marriage and family therapist and university instructor.

Stacey's workshop will focus on cultures within families, and he said that participants will examine how they function within their family, as well as how the family functions within the culture.

Stacey will utilize an interactive technique called "sculpting," in which individuals model themselves to symbolically demonstrate perceived relationships and situations.

"The idea is that every family has its own individual culture, and we don't realize it. We'll look at how we function in our own families, and how families function in our culture," said Stacey. "It's all about awareness — how we can be more intentional and aware and not get locked into patterns."

Other workshops include The Best Way to Predict Your Future is to Create it, the Navajo Wellness Model, and Service Leadership, said Drake.

As with previous conferences, there will be a shorter Youth Track session offered for high school students.

Entertainment will also be a part of the event, said Drake.

"Two of our dancers from the San Juan County's Got Talent show are putting their different styles together for a dance," said Drake. "We will also have the Angels of Saint Mary's, a traditional folkloric dance group made up of kids from three- to 12-years-old, and the Ashay Drummers will be in the lobby to entertain people before the conference."

Miss Northern Navajo Alexandria Holiday will be giving the invocation, and Diane McCants, who is a local minister and member of the San Juan chapter of the NAACP will serve as this year's master of ceremonies. Keynote speaker is Erwin Rivera, whose talk is entitled La Cultura Cura.

Lunch is included in the registration fee, and participation in the conference is worth 4.5 continuing education hours from the New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals in the cultural competency and awareness category, said Drake.

"People usually come out of the conference with a better appreciation of cultures, and they feel more culturally-competent," she said. "They also learn better ways to share with other people from all cultures."

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

If You Go

What: 18th Creating Cultural Harmony Conference

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 (Youth Track is 10:15 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Where: Henderson Fine Arts Center main auditorium, San Juan College, 4601 College Boulevard, Farmington

Info: Registration fee is $45 for adults, $25 for youth. To register, call 505-566-5867, e-mail, or visit Registration can also be done at the door on the day of the conference.