Connection Through Cooking: How Spanish Teacher Wilmer Barrera Approaches Teaching Latin American Culture


Sydney Smith

Freshman Alexa Casillas Martin and sophomore Jocelyn Hernandez cut onions and peppers in the culinary room while in Spanish teacher Wilmer Barrera’s Native Speaker Spanish class. Barrera wants his students to learn about Spanish culture through daily life experiences such as cooking so he incorporates cooking into his classroom teaching. “I graduate[d] from college and I love being in front of the classroom,” Barrera said.

Sydney Smith, Staff Writer

Spanish teacher Wilmer Barrera cooked beans, rice, and eggs before combining the ingredients in a soft taco tortilla, topped with a “special” cheese, and mantequilla, a special cream. Barrera has taught his classes how to make baledas, a Honduran staple, every year since starting to teach at Creek in 2018. He believes that a key part of all cultures is the food and hopes to connect with his students through a more realistic experience.

“I’ve always believed that food with culture is always a great ingredient to start a friendship and a relationship,” Barrera said. 

Baledas were a daily meal for Barrera growing up. The appeal in this meal is the inexpensive but hearty ingredients which connect deeply with Honduran culture. 

“Typically, it costs like 10-15 lempiras, which when we do the conversion is like less than $1,” Barrera said. “That’s what I want the kids to learn about. Number one the food is really good, and second of all, it’s very cheap.”

After moving to America to play soccer, Barrera came to Creek and has been teaching all levels of Spanish for five years, a career which has also allowed him to continue to spread his love of soccer through coaching the boys varsity team. 

“I fell in love with coaching and teaching so much,” Barrera said. “I love being in front of the classroom.” 

Barrera hopes for students to gain a sense of the specific culture of Honduras compared to other Spanish speaking countries. By embodying a major part of the culture, even his Native Speaker class learns the small differences, like those between quesadillas and baledas.

“I have learned more about my culture more than I normally would in other classes,” freshman Julia Rasines said via text interview. “We focus on where the language originates and how it traveled to each country.”

Barerra believes that generalizing the cultures of Latin American countries is a common issue in America and the rest of the world. He thinks that people aren’t aware of the small differences between these countries and hopes to teach as many people as he can. 

“Part of what I try to achieve is that [students] don’t just learn the culture, they live the culture,” Barrera said.