Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportune time to highlight some of Marquette’s proud Hispanic staff members, including Pablo Cardenal, the new assistant director for Campus Ministry.
Cardenal is a dual citizen of the United States and Nicaragua; he was born in Michigan and moved to Nicaragua at age five.
In a Q&A, Cardenal talks about his culture and reflects on what he values most about his Nicaraguan heritage.
What do you consider your cultural heritage?
What is a significant memory you have of your heritage growing up?
To celebrate our independence, we would always have a school assembly on Sept. 15. I have fond memories of performing dances, listening to poems and cheering for “La Gigantona,” which is a costume of a giant woman spinning and dancing alongside beating drums.
What is your favorite thing about Nicaragua?
My family’s favorite activity is to rent a house and go to the beach. I love the beach because it offers a space for relaxation and fun. Every time I go home for vacation, we always go.
What is your favorite meal from Nicaragua?
Quesillo. It’s chewy, white cheese wrapped around a corn tortilla. Then it is put in a bag with cream, chopped onions and salt.
What is your most treasured cultural tradition?
Every late November/early December, Nicaragua celebrates las Purisimas, which is a nine-day prayer honoring the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Each day, someone in the church hosts the entire community to come and commemorate the Virgin while singing and enjoying treats. We’d have fruits, candy, trinkets and drinks. Because this was over the course of nine days, my family and I would attend a number of these (sometimes we would attend two or three on the same day). This is my favorite tradition because it showcases communal joy.
What makes you proud to be Nicaraguan?
I am proud to be Nicaraguan because of the resilience they have showcased in the past few years amidst the political instability the nation has faced. That being said, I do acknowledge the privilege I have of being a dual citizen and not having to experience the direct effects of the nation’s injustices. Regardless, I remain hopeful and attentive for things to change for the better.
What is something about your country, culture or heritage that people might not know that you’d like to share?
The current government is one of injustice. The nation has been suffering since 2018. I’d encourage you to read a news article about what is happening if you have the chance.
Why is it important for you to identify with your heritage and how does that translate into your personal identity?
It is just who I am. To me being Nicaraguan is just second nature: it’s my family, my home, my faith, my culture, my memories. It is important to identify with my heritage because the alternative is denying who I am. It is through being Nicaraguan that my sense of community and faith is strengthened.