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Latinx Heritage Month is Honored Through A Poetry Open Mic Night

By Collin Atwood

Latinx Heritage Month is nearing its end for 2021. Springfield College has recognized Latinx heritage over the past 30 days. In 1968 it began as a week-long celebration called Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1989 it became a month-long event that begins on Sept. 15 annually.

Latinx Heritage Month, which is also known as Hispanic Heritage Month, was created to honor the history, culture and influence of past generations who came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The reason the month starts on Sept. 15 is because that is the day that Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua claimed their independence.

At the start of the heritage’s celebration this year, Dr. Rachel Rubinstein, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Springfield College, gave a keynote address about Latinidad, Jewishness, and Intersectionality. Rubinstein is also the author of “Members of the Tribe: Native America in the Jewish Imagination.”

Springfield College also hosted a poetry reading from Jose B. Gonzales on Sept. 17. Gonzales touched on his journey from being an immigrant from El Salvador to becoming an English professor with a PhD.

The Springfield College Dance Department also hosted a dance class with visiting artist Alan Franco. Franco taught the class Latin dancing styles like salsa, bachata and merengue.

The events were part of Springfield College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion: “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is rooted in the belief that multiple points of view, life experiences, ethnicities, cultures, and belief systems are essential to academic excellence.”

Additional recognition of Latinx Heritage Month came on Thursday, Oct. 7, in the presentation room in Judd. Will Arighi, an Assistant Professor of World Literature at Springfield College who focuses on literary studies in Latin America and Southeast Asia, hosted a poem reading. He and Springfield College students read poems from notable poets of Latin descent. Some of the poets featured included Julia de Burgos, Jose B. Gonzales and William Carlos Williams.

This open mic poetry reading was related to a class that Professor Arighi is teaching this semester called “Latinx Literature.” He started the class in 2019.

“I feel like it’s a useful class to get the Springfield College community a little more connected to the city of Springfield, which has a large Latinx population,” Arighi said. According to data from the American Community Survey in 2019 the Hispanic population in Springfield is 45%.

Arighi thought the best way to get the community connected would be through poetry — and not just because he loves literature.

“One of the key reasons is just that there’s a very strong tradition in Latinx communities, in Latin America as well as Spanish traditions going back centuries. It’s effective because it cuts across a lot of different cultures and everybody’s kind of got some poetry in the back of their mind,” Arighi said.

By starting this class, where students can learn about Hispanic cultures, customs, art and literature, the celebration of the Latinx heritage will last much longer than one month.

Photo Courtesy Springfield College

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