McCook’s 2022 Hometown Intern Chasity Samaniego spent her summer focusing on cultivating a sense of belonging for the city’s Hispanic community.
Working alongside the local economic development corporation, she reached out to Hispanic-owned businesses and interviewed the owners for input in making materials to help other entrepreneurs get their start.
“I think a big stereotype is that most of us come from the same place,” Samaniego said. “We all have our own stories. We’re not all from Mexico. One of my biggest focal points was getting to know each and every person I met and where they came from and getting to know them as a person.”
Her biggest (and favorite) project of her internship, though, was organizing a community Dia de los Muertos celebration—the first ever in McCook. Families observed the holiday by honoring deceased loved ones through doing the things they loved. There were plenty of festivities, including art, music, food, dancing, and more. Attendees were able to create their own ofrendas (offerings placed on altars to welcome the deceased) with materials supplied by event organizers.
“My hope is to bring as much of that to McCook as I can so not only can the Hispanic culture in McCook enjoy it, but also the English-speaking community can get a taste and see what it’s like,” Samaniego said. “We can thrive better as a community as whole.”
Overall, the experience has helped Samaniego feel closer to her community, culture, and herself.
“It has brought me closer to what I feel is my heritage,” she said. “It really opened my mind and my heart to who I truly am.”
It really opened my mind and my heart to who I truly am.