Smith Professor Joins MA Governor Patrick in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

Olivia Goodman ’14
News Editor

This year, Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15, was celebrated at the State House in Boston with a proclamation given on Oct. 2 by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Associate Professor of Sociology and director of the Program in Latin American and Latina/o Studies at Smith, Ginetta Candelario ‘90, joined Patrick to give the keynote address.

The theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, “25 Years Strong: A Celebration of Civic Engagement and Service,” recognizes the impact of the Latino/a community throughout Massachusetts. Patrick’s administration asked Candelario, who represented the Commonwealth’s Latino/a’s civil engagement as someone whose work exemplifies this year’s theme, to take part in the proclamation.

Candelario’s keynote included personal reflections, such as her own mother’s arrival to the U.S. from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, as well as a discussion of Latino/a presence in government, and schools. She included topics such as school-based and residential segregation and its political and economic consequences.

Her speech also highlighted what was most important to her in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.  “Because of my son and my daughter, I feel that my most important task today is not simply celebrating Latino/a civic engagement, [but] instead…ask our elected state officials to be allies to Latino/a communities,” said Candelario.  “We are not ‘social problems’ to be solved, nor victims in need of saviors.  We are Latino/a players on the field of dreams of America’s game in need of diehard fans.”

Following her keynote address on October 2, Candelario commented on the symbolic importance of political recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.  “It’s an official acknowledgement that Latino/as form part of the Commonwealth, and therefore, we should have a voice in defining the Commonwealth,” said Candelario. “At the level of policy, I think it’s ultimately about addressing class-based inequality through investment in health, education and welfare.  Investing in strengthening families – rather than punishing them for being broke – is costly in the short term, but in the long run, has cost-saving benefits in terms of imprisonment, public health, and the many benefits of fostering human growth and development.”

The Smith Candelario came to as a student in 1984 was “visibly different from the Smith of today,” with very few minority students and even fewer Hispanic faculty or staff on campus. The town of Northampton then was “even Whiter” demographically than Smith.  “I think that there is far greater ethno-racial and class diversity at all levels in Smith and Northampton today than 30 years ago.  That is a good thing, but, there’s still work to be done in cultivating an institutional culture that welcomes everyone equally and is willing to adjust rather than just train ‘newcomers’ to assimilate into the status quo,” said Candelario.

Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated at Smith through a series of events, which began on September 27 with the Latino/a Heritage Month fair on Chapin Lawn hosted by Nosotr@s, a Latino/a student org, which also held a celebratory 5-College mixer last Friday.  Upcoming events include a visit by Girls Inc. on October 11; an alumnae panel, “Our Mother’s Kitchen,” where Smith alumnae will share stories about how they came to Smith and what role their families and mothers in particular played in their experience on October 17; and a Dia de los Muertos workshop on October 18.

“Nosotras has spent 32 years working to educate the Smith community about Latino/a cultures, providing a familiar space for Latino/as on campus, and advocating for the interests of Latino/a students at Smith,” said Candelario.  “This latest programming [in celebration of this month] is part of that long tradition.

“I hope that Hispanic Heritage Month serves an educational purpose for non-Latino/as who are otherwise subjected to little other than stereotypes and distortions about Latin America and the Caribbean, and about Latino/as in the United States.  I did my best to speak to the incredible work that Latino/as are doing at all levels and in all realms, from local grassroots leaders to elected officials, from scholars to school kids, from blue-collar to professional workers, from stay-at-home moms to mothers in the paid labor force.”

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