The courtyard in front of the Seaver Art Gallery transformed into a festive fiesta, full of students with satisfied stomachs, sweet aftertastes, and Latino music ringing in their ears Oct. 13. People waiting in long curving lines for horchata or tamales or taking in the busy atmosphere made walking across the courtyard impossible.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in October along with Dia de la Raza, also known as Columbus Day. This year’s celebration showed the growing presence of the school’s Latino population, which has expanded significantly over the last ten years. The current seventh grade class includes 15% of students who identify themselves as either “Hispanics/Latinas” or “mixed/Latinas.”
The school’s celebration started with an all-school assembly with speaker Giselle Acevedo-Franco, CEO of Para Los Niños, an organization that works to provide schooling for children on Skid Row in Los Angeles.
The celebration then continued with a feast provided by parent volunteers from the Latino community.
“We succeeded at recreating the ambiance of a vibrant open air mercado. The truck with churros, the frutero (fruit vendor) and the taqueria (taco truck) added authenticity to the experience,” Mabel Cardenas, mother of Sara ’13 and Sophia ’14 and one of the event’s parent organizers, said.
There was always a day in which Marlborough celebrated Hispanic Heritage. However, many students agreed this year’s celebration was far more vibrant.
“This year’s event was more successful due to the hard work and large parent participation,” Miranda Payne, associate director of admissions who helped organize the celebration, said.
“In future years we hope to be more involved in planning and organizing the celebration,” Co-president of OLE/South American Awareness club Fergie Marin ’10 said.
“The Latino families were so generous that we had too much food this year (last year we were short). We were able to donate it to a local shelter and food bank so that others could enjoy our feast,” Shelagh Callahan, mother of Zoe La Soya ’13 and one of the parent volunteers, said.
The growth in parent participation and the magnitude of the event reflect a growing population of new Hispanic students to the school.
According to Payne, the Latina population has risen from an average of 5.6% from 1999 to 2004 to an average of 9.4% from 2004 to 2009. These percentages illustrate the growth is continuing.
“In eighth, ninth, tenth, and twelfth grades, [the population] is an average of 8% whereas in eleventh and seventh grade, the percentage jumps to approximately 15%,” Payne said.
This increase in the population has given the Latino community more of a voice and given the school an opportunity to experience a taste of Hispanic culture.
“As a member of the now conjoined clubs, OLE and South American Awareness, the emphasis is not only on Latino celebration, but also on teaching other people about our culture. This year, with the overwhelming help from the parents, we were able to do so.” Genesis Ahtty ’11 said.
“The old adage in Spanish “querer es poder,” (where there is a will, there is a way), was a mantra to many of us,” Cardenas said.
Acevedo-Franco, spoke to the school about her life and the reasons for how she got to the place she is today. Her work includes trying to put a stop to the cycle of poverty and violence by providing a safe and educational haven for children.
She promised herself long ago that she wouldn’t let the fight inside her die out, and still today she encourages striving to your fullest potential and focusing on the good in your life.