Migrant workers welcomed in Brockport

BROCKPORT — Rich colors and the united sound of many voices filled Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church on June 27 as a crowd of nearly 150 recognized and welcomed migrant workers during this year’s bienvenida celebration.

Prior to the bilingual Mass, Penny Gardner, the Diocese of Rochester’s migrant ministry coordinator for Brockport, affirmed the local community’s support of the migrant workers who travel to Brockport and surrounding communities.

“All colors of the rainbow are necessary to have something beautiful,” Gardner said.

It is the diversity of people and cultures that makes the world so beautiful, according to Gardner.

Celebrating diversity is one of bienvenida’s several purposes, according to Grace Carson, chairperson of the Brockport Ecumenical Outreach Committee, which helps organize the celebration.

“We need to acknowledge the migrant workers, make them feel welcome, and also lessen the cultural bridge between the Anglo and Hispanic community,” Carson said.

As a welcome to the migrant workers, the Mass began with the congregation enthusiastically singing “De Colores,” a traditional Spanish folk song. Members of the dance group Alma Latina joined several members of the congregation in the procession, carrying brightly colored banners with bells attached, candles, and baskets of apples, cherries, lettuce, squash and strawberries. The produce was placed in front of the altar around a statue of Mary, which included the Mexican flag and “welcome” banners in both English and Spanish.

The Mass was celebrated by Father Jesús Flores, diocesan coordinator of migrant ministry, with clergy from other area churches participating. Sweden Town Board member Michael Myers offered a civic proclamation as an official welcome, noting that approximately 1,000 migrant workers populate Sweden. Brockport Mayor Connie Castañeda read the proclamation in Spanish.

After the Mass, the celebration continued with performances from Alma Latina dancers. Male dancers wore sombreros, and the female dancers were adorned with vibrantly colored skirts and various colors of ribbons tied into their hair. The dancing “brought a little nostalgia for the workers … and provided entertainment to both the Anglo and Hispanic communities,” Gardner said.

Bienvenida’s message of welcome and unity was symbolized in a dance during which six females twisted their scarves into a tightly knotted circle of orange, gold, purple, pink, green and white. After the dancing, a dinner was held at Brockport’s First Baptist Church.

Rosa, a migrant worker from Pavilion, Genesee County, who asked that her last name not be used, said she was happy to be a part of the celebration.

“It just filled me with joy because I am not always able to come out to Brockport,” she said.

Elva Ramírez and Felipe Martínez, natives of Guadalajara, Mexico, attended the bienvenida for their second time. The couple has been in town for the last three months visiting their daughter, Alis Simpson, a third-year doctoral student at the University of Rochester.

Martínez said he was thankful for every part of the celebration, especially the gratitude and recognition from the community. The congregation was definitely close to God during the Mass and other festivities, Ramírez added.

“Our heart and hopes as all humans … were equal in the church,” Simpson noted.

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