Hispanic Staten Island
(April 24, 2013) Ventured across the “Big Water” to attend an exhibition open and panel discussion on the campus of Wagner College. “Hispanic Staten Island: Culture and Identity” brought together a dubious group of Staten Island residents to share their perspectives and experiences as members of a so-called immigrant community integrating into the larger existing community. The event came as part of New York City’s 10th Immigrant Heritage Week.
One of the talents featured in the group exhibition is esteemed Nuyorican artist Olga Ayala. During the discussion, she was quick to point out that Puerto Ricans are not immigrants, and that the island remains a colony of the United States. Olga has been a resident of Staten Island for the past 25 years, and has seen many of the changes or lack of changes in Staten Island as they pertain to the local Hispanic community.
Another familiar face and panelist was writer/author Linda Nieves-Powell. Ms. Nieves-Powell described the whole notion of hanging on to a Latino identity as a “very complicated thing.” As a writer, much of her work deals with the whole question of identity. She has come to believe that people are constantly evolving and that she is not the same person she was 10 years ago. Those feelings became real after the death of her grandmother who, she says, represented her strongest tie to the Puerto Rican culture. Once her grandmother died, the connection became increasingly strained.
Other panel members included: moderator Jose Calderon (Hispanic Federation); photographer Irma Bohorquez-Geisler; immigration activist Cesar Vargas; and Wagner College student Anthony Gonzalez. The Staten Island Immigrants Council gave special recognition awards to Ilya Geller, of Midland Beach, and the Stephen Siller Tower to Tunnel Foundation for service to the immigrant community of Staten Island following Hurricane Sandy.
The exhibit @ the Spotlight Gallery, Horrmann Library, Wagner College, 631 Howard Avenue, Staten Island, NYC, continues through May 5th, 2013.
Watch the panel discussion in its entirety here: http://youtu.be/h08JfXThjs0