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Mary Beenken, Published November 14 2010

Cultures unite at Pangea

Fargo-Moorhead’s diversity was on display Saturday at Pangea, a multicultural event at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center.

Now in its sixth year, Pangea – the name of an ancient supercontinent made up of all land on Earth – featured a variety of ethnic foods, exhibits, performances, vendors and children’s activities.

Pangea’s goal is to bring together people from all parts of the area, according to Markus Krueger, visitor services coordinator at the Hjemkomst.

“It’s about celebrating all the different cultures that make up our community,” he said.

Participants represent cultures from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

“We want to honor the rich tapestry of cultures that are alive and well in the Fargo-Moorhead community,” said Maureen Kelly Jonason, executive director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, which helps organize Pangea.

Jonason said many people don’t realize how diverse Fargo-Moorhead is.

“When people come here, they are often amazed that this many cultures live in Fargo-Moorhead,” Jonason said. “There’s a kind of invisibility for certain cultures ... and this is a chance for them to be more visible.”

But Pangea is not only meant to educate the general population about other cultures. According to Darci Asche, community support services supervisor for Lutheran Social Services’ New American Services program, the event also benefits recent immigrants and minority populations.

“Our refugees are just really excited to see the Native American dancers and the Latin American dancers,” Asche said. “They enjoy that they’re part of such a diverse community. It’s eye-opening, in a sense.”

Yoke Sim Gunaratne, executive director of Cultural Diversity Resources, agrees. She said it’s natural for people to want others to understand their heritage.

“If you were from a (different) culture, you would be so excited to share,” she said.

According to Krueger, Pangea also offers a unique opportunity for people of all cultures to find unity in their backgrounds.

“Almost everyone in our community had ancestors who came here as immigrants, if they aren’t immigrants themselves,” he said. “The immigrant experience is something that almost everyone in our community has experienced at one time or another.”

Gunaratne thinks Pangea is usually successful in promoting this kind of understanding between different groups.

“There is a good interaction between the ethnically diverse individuals and the general population,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Beenken at (970) 227-5613