shops with light snacks and warm welcomes.
As visitors stroll through Downtown, they are treated to
performances from the California Choreographers Dance Festival and
can catch a glimpse of Santa riding by as he heads to his hut to
greet the children.
One of the biggest hits of the event for the past five years has
been La Playa's tamale booth. La Playa is an organization designed to
help Spanish-speaking adults learn English. Every year, the group's
students make fresh, authentic tamales for Hospitality Night. A line
will begin to form when they go on sale at 5 p.m. at Laguna
Presbyterian Church's Tankersley Hall.
Not only are they considered a hot commodity for their tastiness,
the tamales help raise funds for the organization established by the
South County Crosscultural Council.
"Essentially, La Playa provides a stimulating center for Hispanic
mothers and sometimes fathers to learn English while their infant and
preschool children are cared for in a cross-cultural environment,"
volunteer teacher Lorna Cohen said.
"La Playa enriches our community through promoting mutual
understanding, cultural awareness and the simple feeling of
neighborliness -- which results when we learn to speak the same
language and get to know each other as families."
Since its start in 1996, it has had day care for preschool
children in addition to the English instruction four mornings a week.
There are several class levels, and they have served about 300
students since the school opened. Director Sally Rapuano is the only
paid staff member; 12 volunteers help teach the 25 to 30 students.
Student Carmen Aguilar is part of the tamale-making team.
"Five years we have been making the tamales to buy books, to keep
and share the Mexican tradition and share the tradition of making
tamales," Aguilar said.
She said that last year, they made 1,000.
"Two years ago, a woman told me she was angry, she had been
waiting in the line, and there were no more tamales," Aguilar said.
"People want more and more."
Lorna Cohen, who is a teacher at La Playa, instigated the tamale
sale in 1995 as a way to raise money for textbooks.