Hispanic Heritage Day presentations disucss student experiences, highlight need for Puerto Rico aid


Lucy Lu

by Samantha Fredberg
Dr. Luis Selva, of the Veteran Administration (VA) Healthcare System of Boston, spoke about his experience as a Salvatorian and former undocumented immigrant at Hispanic Heritage Day A-block.
“I am here to share where I’m from and the path that has taken me here today,” Selva said. “That begins when I was four or five years old, and my dream was to be an astronaut.”
Selva explained that people do not follow straight paths from point A to point B, rather life takes turns and backtracks until they reach their goal. “If one path does not work, try another path, and if that doesn’t work, try another” he added.
Selva, born in San Salvador, El Salvador, grew up with his two parents, a brother, and two sisters. He emphasized that both parents had to end their education in third grade in order to work and provide for their families.
After his father passed away in 1975, Selva’s family immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles. “I have never shared this before, but if the law of the land was then what it is now, I would be classified as a child under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” Selva said. “I came here, to this country, undocumented.”
Selva, now a legal citizen, admitted that his family would have been deported if today’s laws were in place in 1975. “I want to show you what people like myself can contribute to this country,” he said in defense of current undocumented immigrants.
As a child, Selva taught himself math and science concepts by visiting his local library twice a week. He built model rockets using the materials around him in middle school, and continued to explore. His passion followed him to high school, and calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, who is known as the subject of the movie Stand and Deliver, encouraged him.
“Escalante would say ‘If the school doesn’t consider you gifted, by the time I am done with you, you will be gifted,’ and I found that to be true,” Selva said.
Though Selva never did reach his initial dream of being an astronaut, he was able to work for NASA in the in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and eventually for the VA of Boston, which he continues to do today.
“It’s a never ending journey,” Selva said. “Yes, as a child I wanted to be an astronaut, but dreams change, dynamics change, and politics change. You are constantly re-inventing yourself, but you must stay true to your core.”
by Tali Falk-Judson
Students gathered in the Little Theater to hear a presentation about bilingual reading during D-block on Hispanic heritage day.
Before the presentation, Spanish teacher Cristina Schulze gave a statement concerning the hurricane in Puerto Rico.
“Newton North needs to help the people who are in trouble in Puerto Rico,” she said. “There are 2200 students at North, and if everyone donates one dollar we can do a lot for people in danger.”
The presentation was given by librarians from the Newton Free Library, Liz Rowland and Jean Colefax, who brought in collections of books from the library written by Spanish speaking authors about Hispanic characters.
“It is important for readers to see themselves reflected in their reading,” said Rowland. “We want to see ourselves in the world around us.”
According to Rowland, 17% of the United States’ population is Hispanic, but only 4% of teen literature features Hispanic subject matter.
“That number was even lower last year,” Colefax said. “But it should be even higher to reflect our diverse nation.”
by Maya Waldman
Sabrina Avilez, executive director of the Boston Latino International Film Festival (BLIFF), presented two short films and one music video to portray the challenges many Hispanics face both in and out of America during G-block in the Little Theater.
The BLIFF was created 15 years ago, said Avilez, who identifies as Puerto Rican Dominican and speaks fluent Spanish. The festival is “a place where we can embrace Hispanic culture and have important discussions, especially with the events of the last few months, such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico,” added Avilez. The festival dates for 2017 were Thursday, Sep. 28 to Sunday, Oct. 1.
Avilez graduated from film school at Boston University and began working at WGBH soon after. She currently travels through Latin America, Central America, and Europe in order to make documentaries for organizations such as PBS.
The two short films Avilez presented were taken directly from the BLIFF.
The first, titled “Suenos Americanos” was about the small children who live and work on the Mexican side of the Mexican-American border. “They work selling little trinkets or doing stunts,” said Avilez. “And what’s sad is that they’re so close yet so far away from fulfilling all of their dreams.”
The second short documentary, “Great Muy Bien,” was about the many Cubans attempting to learn English so that they can work in the United States.
Finally, Avilez displayed the music video “Almost Like Praying”, made by playwright and actor Lin Manuel Miranda, who is best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musical Hamilton. The music video was dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and Avilez encouraged students to donate to help the cause.
“People are dying because the water is contaminated with animal urine,” she said. “If this was happening in any other city or state in America, people would be up in arms. We need to raise awareness and funds.”