The Plenitud family throws a big Christmas party every year on the 29th of December, and this year with Miami was one for the ages. Puerto Ricans know how to party at Christmas time, with plenty of loud music and dancing all day, loads of rich food and drink, and many many people coming to spend quality time together. The culture is very open and very welcoming to outsiders, and everyone does their best to make you feel comfortable and satisfied. The roast suckling pig, or Lechon, is an important part of Puerto Rican culture and cuisine, and a roast Lechon is almost mandatory at these Christmas gatherings.
Throughout the week the Miami volunteers participated in tasks and community service projects, and helping with food harvest and preparation is an important part. They learned about healthy food choices and recipes in a Nutrition workshop. They got a chance to help make a typical local dish called Pastels, which consists of a starchy dough surrounding a savory filling of meat, vegetables, or cheese. The whole thing is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed or boiled. Preparation takes a huge amount of time, so having many hands makes light work.
The goal of Experiential service learning allows people to learn by doing, to live and learn simultaneously. UM's week long experience in rural communal living exposed the students to a way of life that is closer to the land and to the past but also very new and forward thinking in many ways. It gave them a taste of the culture of Puerto Rico, and of the cuisine, and it is our hope that they share what they learned here.