Diaspora

Easthampton celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month – GazetteNET

Easthampton High School’s Chelsea Neus, right,  a member of the school’s Diversity & Leadership Club, has been helping coordinate and set up for the series of events hosted by the Diversity Inclusion Center to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the culture and history of Latinx and Hispanic people. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
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EASTHAMPTON — Chelsea Neus felt a sense of pride as she spotted the Haitian flag hanging among other Latinx and Hispanic flags in a hallway at Easthampton High School Friday afternoon.
“It gives me a sense of belonging to see my heritage, my country celebrated,” Neus said.
As a member of the school’s Diversity & Leadership Club, the 17-year-old has been helping coordinate and set up for the series of events hosted by the Diversity Inclusion Center to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the culture and history of Latinx and Hispanic people.
While the center has hosted events since 2018, this year will be the first year that events will be open to the entire community, said Sindy Mojica, diversity inclusion liaison.
“I think it’s very important for everyone to understand our history and to see how we see ourselves in the real world,” said Mojica.
National observations of the contributions and achievements of Hispanic Americans was first celebrated as a weeklong celebration in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson, and expanded to a monthlong period under President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
The celebration begins on Sept. 15 because it coincides with the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Events in Easthampton kicked off on Friday night with a showing of the 2021 film, “In the Heights,” about a New York bodega owner, who saves money as he sings and imagines a better life.
The community movie screening was an especially important inclusion to the series of events as it shows that representation matters, said Mojica. This movie showcases people in the Hispanic and Latinx community, their culture and that they are working hard.
More often than not, the protagonists in movies made in Hollywood are white, said Neus. Being part of the group also offers a bit of refuge as it can be challenging being a member of the Latinx/Hispanic community in a predominantly white school.
“I want to be seen as independent and smart, and stand proud doing so, and not be tied down or weighed down through someone else’s lens,” she said. “So to see yourself on screen and represented in a positive light – to be seen – it’s comforting. It’s something I’ve always wanted to see – finding love or as the hero.”
Events continue this week when the center will host a local heroes panel in the high school auditorium on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.. The panel is composed of local leaders who have Hispanic heritage and feature a question-and-answer session led by members of the Diversity & Leadership Club.
“As a Hispanic person, sometimes we don’t see ourselves depicted in big positions. Luckily here in Easthampton, we have one politician here and a few teachers, but we don’t always have that opportunity to be represented,” said Mojica. “The Hispanic/Latinx community has contributed to the U.S. in many ways such as science, math, journalism, teachers, the military and so many more areas. I am so happy that these kids can see someone that looks the same, shares the same culture and who they can see themselves in.”
The center will also host two sessions about Hispanic heritage in the U.S. on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The first session will be open to teachers only from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., and the second session will be open to the public from 5 to 6 p.m.
The series of events culminates with a fiesta and a student art show on Friday, Oct. 14. The fiesta begins at 5:30 p.m. and will feature tables from area nonprofits and merengue, bachata and salsa music courtesy of Choco Band.
At the event, attendees will be given two tickets to rank their favorite pieces of artwork. Winners will be announced at the end of the event.
“I feel very proud to be able to help host these events and would not have been able to do it without our youth leaders. We have a great youth leader community inside of Easthampton High School. I listen to them and see what’s missing that they could learn and share with the adults around them,” said Mojica. “We hope that people come to learn and celebrate with us – it’s going to be a fun time.”
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