Hispanic heritage celebrated

ROCHESTER — Local events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15-Oct. 15 include a celebration of more than 50 years of Catholic ministry to Hispanics in the Rochester Diocese as well as recognition for a local dance pioneer.

Deacon Nemesio "Vellon" Martínez said that about a year ago he proposed to the diocese’s Hispanic Ministry team the idea of a special celebration for the ministry.

"I thought it was a good idea to celebrate our presence in the Diocese of Rochester and recognize those who worked hard to build this community … and secure a place for us to worship," he said.

There were few Masses for Hispanics in the 1950s and 1960s, with small groups congregating for Spanish-language liturgies at such churches as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Bridget and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While these parishes have closed over the years, the Spanish-speaking population has remained committed to maintaining its presence in the Rochester Diocese, Deacon Martínez remarked.

An Oct. 17 Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral to celebrate "the golden era" of Hispanic ministry will be historic in several ways, said Brother Juan Lozada, director of the diocese’s Spanish Apostolate. It will mark the first time that a Spanish-only Mass will be celebrated at the cathedral, he said, which in the past has celebrated bilingual Masses. The liturgy will be celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark, and it will be the only Spanish Mass offered in Rochester that day.

Other community organizations, including the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Latino Professional Alliance, Holy Apostles Church’s Hispanic apostolate and the Rochester City School District, also are having events to mark Hispanic Heritage Month. The Hispanic population nationally was estimated to be 48.4 million people — representing 16 percent of the United States’ total population, according to https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf. In Rochester, Hispanics represent 16 percent of the city’s population, according to http://censusviewer.com/city/NY/Rochester.

The golden celebration of Hispanic ministry in the Rochester Diocese also will include a banquet at the Diplomat Banquet Center following the Mass. Deacon Martínez said that the hope is that the celebration will become an annual event.

"We have to wake up the sleeping giant and show how important this community is," he said.

The Memorial Art Gallery’s annual Hispanic/Latino Heritage Family Day will include a tribute to Borinquen Dance Theatre and its founder — Nydia Padilla-Rodríguez — for the company’s efforts to provide arts and cultural education for nearly three decades, said Debora McDell-Hernández, the gallery’s coordinator of community programs and outreach.

Padilla-Rodríguez will be honored during a ceremony that will be part of the all-day event on Oct. 3.

"As far as we’re concerned, Borinquen is the longest-standing … Latino performing arts group in Rochester," McDell-Hernández noted. "We felt it was appropriate to honor that (commitment) to Hispanic culture and arts."

The Borinquen tribute will include testimonials from former students, including one who will be joining Garth Fagan Dance. Padilla-Rodríguez began her dance career with Fagan’s original dance company, "Bottom of the Bucket." Fagan, who served as Padilla-Rodríguez’s mentor in her efforts to create Borinquen Dance Theatre, also will be a guest speaker, McDell-Hernández added.

"Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate our culture, language, music, arts, food, tradition, values and most of all families," Padilla-Rodríguez said. "I am humbled to be recognized as the founder of Borinquen Dance Theatre, which has been … preserving the rich culture and heritage of Puerto Rico and expressing our love for our bicultural experiences through the arts as a discipline. I have witnessed hundreds of youths experience BDT with a sense of pride, connection to our roots and (subsequently) serving as positive ‘life models’ in our community. I am honored and look forward to leave a legacy for the next generation to follow."

The gallery’s overall theme for Hispanic/Latino Heritage Family Day is "The Faces of Diverse Ancestry," and the event will include children’s classes on creating traditional Puerto Rican "vejigante" masks made of papier maché. The masks represent mischievous characters and are worn during carnival festivals on the island, according to www.puertoricomasks.com. Children also will have the opportunity to make "molas" that are part of the indigenous Kuna culture from Panama, McDell-Hernández said. Traditional molas are made of patterns and strips of fabric but the children will use yarn to mimic such patterns, she added.

This year’s country spotlight will focus on Mexico. Because of the popularity of that spotlight program — which also has featured the Dominican Republic and Panama — in recent years, the planning committee decided to move it to the auditorium and offer it twice on Oct. 3, McDell-Hernández noted.

"We do these things and learn a little bit year after year," she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about the diocesan celebration, call Parish Support Ministries at 585-328-3228, ext. 1328; visit www.mag.rochester.edu for information on the Memorial Art Gallery event. For details about other Hispanic Heritage events, see El Mensajero Católico‘s calendar of events.

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