W&J rising senior Isabella Manzari smiles down at a cup of Cuban cuisine.

Founded through food: Cuban-American student re-connects with culture in Miami Magellan

Created: August 5, 2022  |  Last Updated: September 6, 2022  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (August 5, 2022)—When COVID-19 threatened rising senior Isabella Manzari’s plan to travel to Cuba and re-connect with her culture, she got inventive.

A Spanish and gender & women’s studies double major, LINK Mentor, Matthew Brown Fellow, Student Government Representative, and all-around athlete, the challenge served as chance, and in May, she found herself pursuing a Magellan Project to study Cuban cuisine in the summer sunshine of Miami, Florida.

“It was an amazing experience,” Manzari said. “I went to Calle Ocho, [a popular street in Little Havana], every day and tried various snacks, beverages, and meals to try to learn as much as I could about the food from my culture.”

Though Cuban cuisine had always been important to Manzari, living in Western Pennsylvania made connecting with the culture difficult. Determined to enhance the relationship to her roots, she took to travel and taste.

“I wanted to learn more about who I am…and bring my culture home with me,” Manzari said. “The best way I could think to do that was through food. One of the most fulfilling ways to study culture is through food. Food is vital to life, and every culture has different recipes that each have a history behind them.”

For Manzari, discovering that history meant overcoming her fears.

“I was really nervous to travel on my own in a big city,” she said, “but it was so much easier than I thought it would be. I learned the metro routes and within a week I felt like a local.”

Apparently, she seemed like one too.

“Many people asked me about my background and where I had learned Spanish from,” Manzari said. “When I would tell them that my mother is from Cuba they would get very excited. It felt good to be able to connect with other Cubans.”

Planning to travel after graduation, Manzari hopes many more connections are to come and encourages other students to find their own.

“I think the Magellan is an incredible opportunity unique to W&J’s students,” she said. “It gave me the experience and courage I needed to be able to travel and use my language skills without worry, and I think everyone should take advantage of it.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu or call 888-W-AND-J.