Spanish-Immersion Walking Tour of Pico Union

Spanish-Immersion Walking Tour of Pico Union

Honors Spanish III students visit Pico Union for an immersive learning experience.

Spanish-Immersion Walking Tour of Pico Union

Written by Addie S. ’26

Honors Spanish III students had the opportunity to visit Pico Union, a diverse and historic neighborhood near Downtown Los Angeles, to apply our classroom learning in a real-world setting. Guided by two of our Spanish instructors and another Spanish-speaking faculty member, we embarked on our journey to tour the majority Salvadorian and Oaxacan neighborhood. With an immersive experience in mind, we were prompted to only speak Spanish throughout the trip—when interacting with each other, our teachers, and the native Spanish speakers of the Pico Union community with whom we would meet.

This Pico Union field trip came to fruition thanks to the planning of Pamela Wright, Dean of Social Justice and Community Partnerships; Andréa Fuentes, World Languages Department Head; and Mónica Márquez, World Languages Instructor. Beginning early in the school year, these faculty members came together for a collaboration between their departments with the hopes of connecting what we—their students—were learning in class to an authentic community close to campus.

“There are so many places that we can go to and experience firsthand because we live in LA, and the beauty of it is that you can interact with Spanish speakers,” Prof. Márquez says. “We want students to go off campus, interact with other people, hear people's accents, and learn about their culture and community.”

Ms. Wright began communicating with representatives of the Pico Union neighborhood over a year ago and established the plan for a walking tour to the most historic locations around the neighborhood that Marlborough faculty members could conduct on their own. 

The field trip was planned during our unit about community and society, so the instructors could incorporate lessons about Pico Union into class time prior to the trip. We were able to utilize vocabulary from the unit to learn and present about locations that would be on the tour.

The first stop of the trip was Alvarado Terrace, a National Register Historic District, that includes a row of six famous homes and an apartment building dating back to 1902. Each structure represents a unique architectural style including Mission Revival, Tudor Revival, Shingle, and Chateauesque. Our class had the opportunity to discuss what they learned in class while hearing new details about the famous district in Spanish.
    
Next, our group walked to La 27 Restaurante, an authentic Nicaraguan restaurant located on Pico Boulevard. We tried Nicaraguan foods—such as plantains, rice, and beans—and looked at the traditional Nicaraguan artwork on the walls while listening to Doña Maria tell her story and explain the importance of the family-owned restaurant that spreads culture through food. 

“I really enjoyed going to the restaurant and listening to Doña Maria because she was talking about her culture and how her family created the restaurant,” Ria D. ’26 said. “Specifically, she mentioned how it really brings all of the members of her family together, and that was really inspiring.”

To finish off the tour, we walked to the Pico Union Project, a community center dedicated to providing resources for all members of the Pico Union community and revamping the nature and look of the neighborhood. We met Jorge Alvarez, the caretaker of the Pico Union Project, and heard more about their mission to support all members of one’s community as though they are your own family.
    
“The community center talked a lot about helping our neighbors and the people around us to better the community as a whole,” Ria reflects. “It really inspired me to do so in my own community, in my family and also in the neighborhood where I live.”
    
I found that through off-campus exploration, I learned from firsthand experience. I was able to practice speaking Spanish in a new environment with native speakers. The opportunity to interact with the community members involved in different sectors like community service and business provided unique chances to get to know Pico Union in a distinctive and personal way. Overall, the Pico Union field trip helped to deepen my understanding of the concepts we were learning in class while simultaneously broadening my understanding of the many cultures around Los Angeles.


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