hispanicheritagemonthIn a season when several Latin American countries celebrate their independence, Governor Deval Patrick has proclaimed the annual Hispanic Heritage Month in Massachusetts, from September 15 to October 15.

Ginetta Candelario ‘90, associate professor of sociology at Smith, and director of the Program in Latin American and Latina/o Studies, joined Gov. Patrick in proclaiming Hispanic Heritage on October 2.

The event, at the State House in Boston, included a performance by a local dance group, and a community fair showcasing nonprofit organizations with Latino constituencies.

“It’s quite an honor to participate in this event,” said Candelario. “This is an official acknowledgement of the growing and substantial presence of Latinos in Massachusetts, especially in the past three decades. It’s also an important recognition by Anglo-Americans of the longstanding presence of the Latino population in America.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated through a series of events at Smith (see related article).

The Latino population is one of the fastest growing populations in Massachusetts, with 48 percent growth between 2000 and 2010. The theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, “25 Years Strong: A Celebration of Civic Engagement and Service,” recognizes the impact of the Hispanic community across the state.

Candelario was asked by the governor’s administration to take part in the proclamation as someone whose work exemplifies the event’s theme. For more than 13 years, Candelario has engaged with the Holyoke community in community-based education and research. Her Smith courses, Sociology of Hispanic Caribbean Communities in the U.S. (SOC214) and Community-based Research Practicum (SOC308), engage students in local issues and solutions among the city’s substantial Latino community.

Gov. Patrick kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month during a recent roundtable discussion with Hispanic-based service organizations from Western Massachusetts at the Fernandez Family Restaurant in Holyoke. The Fernandez family, who immigrated from Puerto Rico to Holyoke, supports several schools and nonprofit organizations in the Holyoke area, and offers an annual holiday meal at Christmas to homeless members of the Holyoke community.

Gov. Patrick and leaders from his administration will participate in events throughout the month highlighting the contributions and rich heritage of the Hispanic community in Massachusetts.

“Our nonprofit and service organizations unite our communities and often times reach a section of our population that government cannot reach alone,” said Governor Patrick. “This month we celebrate our diversity by honoring the contributions Hispanic civic-based organizations make in creating a unified and more vibrant Commonwealth.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity for Americans to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens who come from—and whose ancestors come from—Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, according to the United States Library of Congress.

Gov. Patrick’s proclamation will also recognize the nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile, each of which celebrated their independence between September 15 and September 18.

Hispanic Heritage Month was first recognized as a week-long observation under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and expanded to a month-long annual celebration, from September 15 to October 15, by President Ronald Reagan.