NORMAN — It was during a dinner conversation at the home of Angelo Lombardo that an idea from Ignacio M. Ruiz and his wife, Dr. María de Jesús Páez de Ruiz, started to unfold.
The idea was to form a Spanish language and cultural studies program in Norman. The program would offer weekly presenters and allow its participants to learn Spanish.
“It’s not easy to mix cultures. I think in our conversation over dinner, what we discovered was that to be accepting of other cultures, you have to know the culture. You can not love if you don’t know,” Lombardo said. “That’s really what we are trying to do is to create in people’s minds and hearts an appreciation and love for the culture to ultimately make it easier for the community to be accepting of our culture.”
From a dining room table to reality, The Father Stanley Rother Hispanic Cultural Institute of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was born five years ago. Tuesday will be the opening ceremony of the spring semester for the institute and The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, will be the keynote speaker.
One of the reasons to start the institute, organizers said, was to help improve the impression of the Hispanic culture.
“At that time, and unfortunately this continues, there was such a bad impression being presented of the Hispanic world and the Hispanic people because of illegal immigration. The idea was why not establish an institute that gives a more positive and informed picture of the Spanish people,” Dr. Luis Cortest, professor of Spanish at the University of Oklahoma, said. “From the beginning the idea was, we need to have speakers who can come in and talk about the Hispanic world in a broad sense. People who can give lectures.”