On October 5, 2011 the Newark Library celebrated the start of the Hispanic-Heritage series, and it was a blast. Library director, Wilma Grey, spoke about the language and spirit of Latino-Americans and the public library’s role to educate people about the Hispanic community of the United States. In its thirty-first year, the Hispanic-Heritage series at the Newark Public Library does just that. During her short introduction for the series, Wilma Grey stated that “the Hispanic-American population is about 18% of the total U.S. population, and since sixty-percent of that number is Mexican-American.” The Newark Public Library is focusing on Mexican history and culture, as well as, the Mexican-heritage New Jerseyans during its 2011 Hispanic Heritage Celebration.
The series kick-off occurred this past Wednesday at the Newark Public library where co-curators; Ingrid Betancourt and Darius Echeverría, put together a collection of photographs and historical narratives to describe how Mexican Americans made their contribution to American History. “The Mexican community and their historical presence in American society” says Ingrid Betancourt, is part of the reason for this collection at the Newark Public Library.” Both she and Wilma Grey are encouraging people to learn about Mexican-American’s invaluable place in our nation’s past. Speaking with Darius Echeverría, he believes “racial discrimination against Mexican or Hispanic-Americans affected their access to better jobs and homes during the civil rights era.” The exhibit, located on the second floor, details the Mesoamerican, colonial and contemporary history of ethnic Mexicans.
When Eduardo Peña Loza spoke at the podium, he identified the Mexican community as falling behind in matters, regarding their legal status. This is a dilemma that he believes the ethnic community must overcome, as he works to educate Mexicans about the benefits in acquiring their papers. Doing this, Eduardo believes, “would open doors to better jobs, homes and resources for Hispanic and Mexican-American families.” Other speakers agreed with these objectives as it is crucial for Hispanic-Americans to know in what direction is their future in the United States. “With our strong leadership and resources, the Hispanic community can demand more, as we become a majority in the United States,” said Teresa Vivar, Executive Director of Lazos America Unida. She ended her speech by saying, “if more Hispanics acquired legal documents, it might help in their fight for better healthcare and education benefits for their children.”
Towards the end of the evening, the keynote speaker, Felipe Galindo spoke about how to use fine art as social criticism. He believed that his work interprets how diverse America is; as well as, the challenges for young Mexicans. As an animator, Felipe questions the American establishment and its relationship to Mexican-Americans. His work will be on display at the Newark Public Library during the Hispanic Heritage Series, along with the film, dance and literary history of Mexican-Americans in the United States. The exhibit, Journey From Aztlán: Mexican Heritage NewJerseyans is now open and runs until the end of December 2011.