December 17, 2018

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations reflect larger unification efforts

Becky Miller '20, Opinions Editor

The mariachi band was just one of the many steps Carrasquillo has taken to honor the different cultures at the high school. (Photo by Brian McManimon.)

This school year began with the promise of Hispanic Heritage Month festivities. The nationwide celebration began on September 15 and lasted until October 15, and as soon as students arrived at the high school in early September, the Classical and Modern Languages department display case on the first floor was decked out in the flags of 22 Spanish speaking countries. Spanish teacher Mr. Pedro Carrasquillo also introduced a contest to guess the country each flag belongs to, and, perhaps most memorably, a mariachi band serenaded students for all three lunches on October 5.

On that day, the Friday morning announcements played a video clip called “We La Gente” and a message from Carrasquillo announcing that the band was going to be at all three lunches. The mariachi band commanded the attention of the cafeteria by walking around, singing “Happy Birthday” to students and getting tables to sing along. They lightened the atmosphere of lunch and kindled a happiness that caused students to leave smiling.

“Everyone was brought together by the band,” said Bridget Noonan ’20, a student who witnessed the mariachi band playing at lunch.

It was Carrasquillo’s idea to bring the mariachi band to the high school. Once Superintendent Mr. David Lussier and Principal Dr. Jamie Chisum gave their consent, Carrasquillo hired the band, which often plays at high schools.

“When you think of a mariachi band, don’t you just smile? It’s perfect because it really marks [Hispanic Heritage Month] and it got students talking. What’s more symbolic and easily recognizable than a mariachi band?” said Carrasquillo.

Beginning last year, Carrasquillo designed celebratory displays in the case on the first floor for the Day of the Dead, winter Festivals of Light, Women’s History Month, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the anniversary of King’s death, Pride Month, Ramadan, and many others. Hosting a musical group at the high school to honor a national month-long celebration was the most interactive step yet.

“I’m hoping to get interactive for the next few months after being inspired by the steps we took for Hispanic Heritage Month. Last year, I realized [through designing the cases] that we’re not homogenous and we need to really honor that,” said Carrasquillo.

Carrasquillo’s main hope for the display case and each monthly celebration is to make students and faculty more aware of the diversity of the high school. Because two-dimensional displays are easier to ignore than a mariachi band at lunch or a guess-the-flag contest, Carrasquillo has realized that going multimedia with each celebration is crucial to its impact on students.

“Images are powerful. I’m hoping that this will leave a little seed in people that you have to be mindful of others. I hope it makes people more aware that young women are just as talented as young men. Period. These holidays are all as important as the others. There is room for everyone at Wellesley High School,” said Carrasquillo.

Mr. Timothy Eagan, the Classical and Modern Languages department head, also seeks to promote respect for all identities and cultures that are present at the high school. As the person who provided support for each of Carrasquillo’s display case visions, Eagan help keep the inclusive spirit alive for each month long celebration.

“I hope that the display case conveys our values that as a community we need to be thoughtful and respectful of our fellow citizens, and the importance of celebrating each other and being able to give representation to people who do not always see themselves represented in the school,” said Eagan.

The display case’s central location makes it a good medium for getting this unifying message across to students. By walking past a case that celebrates the diversity of people in our school, students feel represented and empowered. Carrasquillo says the most rewarding part of creating the displays is the effect it has on students.

“I do it happily because of the students. There are more of them than us, so we should pay attention to their needs, and this case validates that for them. Many Muslim students were thrilled about the Ramadan case because it never gets mentioned. I was really touched as a teacher when students came to thank me, that made my heart glad that these students finally felt like people were paying attention. I thought about the power of giving people a voice, that made it all worth it,” said Carrasquillo.

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