CAFÉ Latino: Communicating Across Cultures

UF/IFAS Extension exists to serve all the people of Florida equally, and our goal is to create educational programs that are accessible and beneficial to Florida’s diverse population. That population is growing and getting more diverse every day. This is especially true of Florida’s Hispanic and Latino population. By 2019 it’s projected that more than one quarter of Floridians will identify themselves as Latino/Hispanic, while in some areas of Florida like Miami-Dade and Osceola counties, Latinos make up the majority of residents. In order to remain relevant and serve the needs of our Hispanic and Latino neighbors, UF/IFAS Extension is working to enhance the cultural competency of our personnel and to design programming that reaches, engages and benefits people across all cultures.

One of the most tangible steps towards this goal has been the formation of CAFÉ Latino: the Coalition of Florida Extension Educators for Latinos.

CAFÉ Latino started at EPAF in 2017 to develop strategies to deliver Extension programming across all cultures. There are currently 34 faculty and Extension members involved in CAFÉ Latino, including state specialists, regional and county agents. They have set in place a comprehensive strategic plan and will be rolling out a number of services this year, including coordination of translations and training opportunities. In breadth and depth, CAFÉ Latino is the first initiative of its kind in UF/IFAS Extension.

Follow CAFÉ Latino on Facebook.

At the Annual Farm Safety Morning in Arcadia, FL March 21, CAFE Latino members delivered education in farm safety, heat stress prevention, and worker protection standards, among other topics to more than 100 Spanish-speaking farm workers in Southwest Florida.

Beginning April 11, CAFÉ Latino will be sponsoring a series of regional workshops in cultural competency and best practices to serve Latinx communities.

The ability to work effectively across different cultures is known as cultural competency. Cultural competency workshops offer a different approach to cross-cultural communication than the diversity training of the past. It’s based on Navigating Difference, a curriculum developed by Washington State University specifically for Extension and other outreach organizations. It begins with recognizing that we all belong to cultures, including organizational cultures.

Cultures come in many forms. Some are related to race, ethnicity or religion, but we also have our own personal cultures, informed by our gender or the time or place where we grew up. There are also organizational cultures, formed out of an established set of mutual goals and tasks. In order to communicate successfully across cultures, we have to acknowledge that what’s normal and easily understood to us might seem strange or hard to understand to someone else. The key to navigating these cultural differences begins with connecting with people on a personal level, and challenging assumptions that can be a barrier to understanding before jumping into projects.

Here’s an example: During a recent field trip to the UF/IFAS Extension Polk County office, UF’s Chief Diversity Officer Antonio Farias and I were presented with “Lulu”, a full-sized anatomical model designed to demonstrate cow birthing difficulties, or dystocia. If you work with 4-H, animal science, or if you’ve been around livestock all your life, you might not think twice about reaching inside a cow’s birth canal to realign a calf during a difficult birth, but for Dr. Farias, this was a dive into a strange new culture. “Thank you again,” he said later, “for allowing me to experience why I should not be a veterinarian, because that cow experience was fantastic, and also just traumatic!”

UF Chief Diversity Officer Antonio Farias interacts with “Lulu”, a cow anatomical model, at the UF/IFAS Extension Polk County office.

Navigating Difference uses hands-on activities (not necessarily involving “Lulu”) to help us explore our various personal and organizational cultures to connect with other people and create community. For example, an early activity might involve participants sharing the three most important things they do every day. This helps participants understand their own values and how they relate to the values of others. Later, at a cultural immersion lunch, food becomes a gateway to understanding other cultures and an opportunity to explore and ask questions. The workshops conclude with discussions about how the cultural needs of our clientele can be assessed and how cultural competency can be factored into our programming and evaluation.

The workshops are designed to create an environment that’s supportive and inclusive, a safe place where people of many different cultures can talk and ask questions without feeling that they’re getting something “wrong”.

Here’s the schedule for the workshops:

  • Central District – April 11 at the Osceola County Extension Office 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Southwest District – April 17 at the Sarasota County Extension Office 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Southeast District – May 14 at the Palm Beach County Extension Office 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

For Extension personnel who are interested in becoming facilitators of cultural competency training, there will be a 3-day workshop offered June 18-20 in Orlando. Contact Laura Valencia or Yolanda Goode for details.

CAFÉ Latino will also be presenting a Core-competency IST at the UF/IFAS Extension Symposium, May 8 from 8:30 to 10 am. Developing Effective Programs for the Diverse Cultures of Florida will be presented by John Diaz, Cecilia Suarez, Laura Valencia, Yolanda Goode, Elizabeth Campoverde, and Kate Fogarty. The workshop will introduce CAFÉ Latino as a resource for Extension and help develop programming skills to enhance UF/IFAS Extension’s ability to serve diverse cultures.

For more about the Extension Symposium, visit and register before April 30.

Learn more about CAFÉ Latino by viewing an Extension Connections conversation with Dr. John Diaz at

View a discussion about UF/IFAS Extesnion’s diversity initiatives with Dr. Farias at


Posted: April 12, 2019

Tags: Diversity, Hispanic/Latino Communities

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