Written by Danielle Couture
Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University and the Windham Textile and History Museum will celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month this fall with two events open to the general public. On Saturday, Sept. 21, Mark Overmyer-Velázquez will deliver a speech, "Global Latinos: Connecticut's Latin American Diaspora", and on Oct. 12, a panel on Latino policy will be held. Both events are scheduled as part of ongoing "Latino Migration Exhibit," on display at the museum through Dec. 8, 2013.
Overmyer-Velázquez, director of El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean and Latin American Studies, will explain how Willimantic's Latinos are part of larger state, national and global diasporic movements. His presentation will "de-center the history and experience of Latinos away from the United States as a singular and single migratory destination and consider instead a larger global framework for understanding the movement of people from Latin American and the Caribbean." The panel on Latino policy will consist of former and current members of Willimantic's Town Council who will address the history of political participation of Latinos in various elected positions and talk about the major policy issues currently impacting the Latino community. Among the panel participants are Lourdes Montalvo, Yolanda Negrón, Luz Osuba, Robert Fernández and Américo Santiago.
In September 1968, the U.S. Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, observed during the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. The observance was expanded in 1989 by Congress to a month-long celebration (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15). Sept. 15 was chosen as the beginning of the month-long celebration because it marks the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua). Mexico's Independence Day is Sept. 16 and Chile's Sept. 18.
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month has cemented the popular usage of the term "Hispanic," an ethnic label created by the U.S. Congress with the approval of Law 94-311. The law mandated the Census Bureau to collect, analyze and publish demographic data on the Hispanic population. As a result, the term "Hispanic" has been adopted as a government construct to classify people who trace their ancestry to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean and Central and South America. The term has gained popular acceptance after being used in all census schedules from 1980 to the present. In 1997, a directive of the Office of Management and Budget added the term Latino to Hispanic.
"Global Latinos: Connecticut's Latin American Diaspora" and the panel on Latino policy are part of the Windham Textile and History Museum's Lyceum Series. Both events start at 4 p.m. and will take place at the Windham Textile and History Museum, located at 411 Main St. in Willimantic. The two events are free and open to the general public. The Latino Migration Exhibit opened to the general public on March 22, 2013, and will be on display until Dec. 8, 2013. The exhibit, which documents the history and significance of Latin American immigration to Willimantic since the mid-20th century, can be viewed during the museum's normal operating hours: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. General admission is $7.