Hispanic Heritage Month kicks into high gear at BGSU

BGSU’s observance of Hispanic Heritage Month will bring poet Victor Hernández Cruz and singer/comedian Jade Esteban Estrada to campus for events Thursday (Oct. 19) and Friday (Oct. 20), respectively.

The next two weeks of activities will culminate Oct. 31 with a keynote look at “Perspectives on the Immigration Debate: The Bracero Guest Workers and Their Ongoing Struggle for Justice.” Two speakers will discuss the braceros program, which brought more than 4 million Mexican farm workers to the United States from 1942-64.

This week’s events begin tonight (Oct. 16) with a talent show, sponsored by the Latino Cultural Arts organization, at 8 p.m. in 202A Bowen-Thompson Student Union.

On Tuesday (Oct. 17), BGSU’s Center for Multicultural and Academic Initiatives will present a 12:30 p.m. lecture by Dr. Robert Buffington, history, on the roots of machismo. Buffington, who will speak in 201A Union, has been studying the topic this year with the help of a $40,000 National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship.

Cruz will be at BGSU Thursday for a 7 p.m. poetry reading in the Union Theater. A native of Puerto Rico, he moved with his family to New York City at age 5. In the 1970s, he emerged as a distinctive voice in the so-called Nuyorican school of émigré poets. Much of his work explores the relationship between the English language and his native Spanish, playing with grammatical and syntactical conventions within both languages to create his own bilingual idiom.

Cruz is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Red Beans, which was published in 1991 and named one of Publishers Weekly’s “Ten Best Books of the Year.” The recipient of National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships, he co-founded both the East Harlem Gut Theatre and the Before Columbus Foundation, and has taught at the University of Michigan, the universities of California at Berkeley and San Diego, and San Francisco State College.

Following Cruz to campus, Estrada will present his one-man show, “ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 2,” at 9 p.m. Friday in 308 Union.

The San Antonio, Texas, native has toured North America with his one-man shows, and his music can be heard on the award-winning police drama, “The Shield,” on FX. His television appearances have included PBS’s “In the Life” and Comedy Central’s “The Graham Norton Effect.”

Also a dancer, Estrada studied alongside Jennifer Lopez with Slam, the lead dancer for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour, and at one time was choreographer and lead dancer for Charo.

Highlighting the month's activities the week of Oct. 23 will be a discussion by three BGSU students and a Latinopalooza celebration.

Speaking from 4-5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in 201A Union will be seniors Naomi Valdez, an international studies major from Findlay, on her study-abroad experience in Spain this summer; Raquel Colon, a political science major from Curtice, on her independent study of educational opportunities—including gender differences—for Latinos in the United States, and Jennifer Stacy, an early childhood education major from Hamilton, on her volunteer work in Mexico this summer.

A two-part Latinopalooza will be held Oct. 27, beginning with a children's carnival, open to the public, from 2:30-5:30 p.m. in the Union Oval. The rain site is the Union Ballroom, where activities will continue at 8 p.m. with a dinner and dance. For ticket information, contact the Center for Multicultural and Academic Initiatives at 2-2642.

Capping the month on Oct. 31 is the discussion of the bracero program, which brought millions of Mexicans into the United States during and after World War II to work temporarily on contract to growers and ranchers.

Leading the lecture, from 7-9 p.m. in 202 Union, will be Nicacio Martinez and Macrina Cárdenas-Alarcón.

Martinez, from Tlaxcala, Mexico, is a member of the National Assembly of Former Braceros, an organization that seeks to claim the money discounted from the workers’ checks while they were in the U.S. The assembly has more than 10,000 members in 12 Mexican states.

Cárdenas-Alarcón is the legislative and grassroots coordinator of the Mexican Solidarity Network in Washington, D.C. She has more than 30 years of political organizing experience in the U.S. and Mexico. For the last 12 years, her major focus has been immigrant rights in the U.S.

The braceros were principally experienced farm workers from agricultural regions in Mexico. Their contracts were written in English and controlled by independent farmer associations and the Farm Bureau. Many braceros signed them without understanding the rights they were giving away nor terms of the employment. For instance, they were allowed to return to their native lands only in case of emergency, and then only with their employers’ written permission. When the contracts expired, they were mandated to hand over their permits and return to Mexico.

At the end of World War II, braceros were ousted from their jobs by returning servicemen and workers coming out of wartime industries. By 1947, the Emergency Farm Labor Service was working on decreasing the amount of imported Mexican labor, and by the 1960s, an overflow of “illegal” agricultural workers and the invention of the mechanical cotton harvester diminished the practicality and appeal of the program. Those events, added to the humanitarian violations of bracero employers, brought the program to its end in 1964.

October 16, 2006