Immigrant City: Social Space for Social Change

Immigrant City: Social Space for Social Change, an exhibit curated by Holyoke Community College students, will be opening on Monday, April 25th from 3–4:30 pm at the Wistariahurst Museum. Using artifacts from Wistariahurst’s Carlos Vega Collection of Latino History in Holyoke, Holyoke Collection, and Skinner Family Collection, the students have mapped the lives of immigrant families through the history of three prominent community spaces—The Skinner Coffee House, Nueva Esperanza, and the Wisteriahurst Museum. HCC student Rory Porcello described the experience of constructing the exhibit as “an intimate encounter with the stuff from which textbooks are constructed.”  Studying Holyoke’s immigrant history has brought together its own kind of migration of people. Among the handful of students, there are 2nd, 4th and 5th generation Holyoke residents, a Daka-mented DREAMer from El Salvador, a West Virginian whose ancestors were involved in the Mingo County coal wars, and a student of both Irish and African descent. Together they have studied Wistariahurst’s archival sources to better understand Holyoke’s rich immigrant history, beginning with the construction of the first mills in the early 1800s, through the boom and bust of industrialization, and on into today. The students chose to focus on community spaces because they clearly vignette the struggle and resilience of the communities to which they catered.

Herencia Latina, which has sponsored Latino history events in the Valley for the past nine months, is spearheaded and coordinated by the Pioneer Valley History Network and the Springfield Public Library, programming is presented by partners Casa Latina, Holyoke Community College, L.I.S.A. (Latino & International Students Association at H.C.C.), Holyoke Public Library, Springfield Museums, Springfield Public Library, Turners Falls RiverCulture, and Wistariahurst Museum.  The project is funded by grants from the American Library Association, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mass Humanities, and supported by El Sol Latino, Nuestras Raices, and WGBY Public Television.

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