Hispanic and Latine/x Heritage Month: Celebrating Identity and Culture

OCTOBER 27, 2021

In celebration of Hispanic and Latine/x Heritage Month, students in Classes K–XII learned about the diverse cultures of our Hispanic and Latine/x community members through storytelling in assemblies, beautiful bulletin boards in the hallways, and email highlights sent throughout the month from the Upper School inclusivity board.

In connection with the Lower School theme of the year—storytelling—families who identify as Hispanic or Latine/x were invited to participate in our Lower School assembly by sharing stories celebrating their heritage, identity, and culture. Students and professional community members learned about traditions, games, foods, and special friends from countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba from students and families in Classes K–IV.

The assembly also included a read aloud from the book Mi Casa is My Home by Laurenne Sala with illustrations by Zara Gonalez Hoang—a story that highlights life at home for a family that is from a Latinx culture. And of course, a celebration assembly in Lower School would not be complete without dancing and so on this morning, students learned how to dance the Merengue as they listened to “Lámpara Pa' Mis Pies,” by Juan Luis Guerra, a musician from the Dominican Republic.

In our Middle School assembly, Middle School Equity Coordinator Ms. Ruffin led students through a presentation that introduced the community to several significant Latine/x and Hispanic individuals and their work: writer Julia Alvarez, historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, and musical theater writer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

While learning about Dominican-American poet, novelist, and author Julia Alvarez, Ms. Ruffin shared a video about Ms. Alvarez’s experience immigrating to New York after living in the Dominican Republic. In the video, she shared what it was like growing up in America compared to the Dominican Republic, the challenges of leaving her home country behind, and how she became a writer. Class VI students were already familiar with Ms. Alvarez’s work, as they recently studied her novel, Before We Were Free, in English class.

Ms. Ruffin also shared two clips from the film In the Heights, based on the musical of the same name by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which tells the stories of Hispanic and Latine/x community members living in Washington Heights. Students watched the opening song that introduces the main characters—sharing their backgrounds, hopes, dreams, and the ways that New York City feels like home. In the second clip, the character of Abuela Claudia sings the song “Paciencia y Fe” (patience and faith), telling the story of her immigration to New York City from Cuba and living out her mother’s dream of making a better life in America, despite the struggles they endured.

In Upper School, our Latinx club and inclusivity board invited a group of Hispanic and Latine/x students, professional community members, and a recent Nightingale graduate to share about their cultures and life experiences in assembly. Our panelists discussed a wide variety of topics connected to Hispanic and Latine/x Heritage Month, including how Nightingale has (or has not) impacted the way they view their identity, reflections on how Hispanic and Latine/x Heritage Month is celebrated at Nightingale, favorite family traditions or celebrations, thoughts on how to sustain the conversations and amplify the voices heard this month throughout the entire year, and ways to embrace the Hispanic and Latine/x culture that exists throughout New York City.

As mentioned above, the inclusivity board sent emails highlighting poetry by Hispanic and Latine/x writers, including Richard Blanco and Alberto Rios. Samari V. ’22, co-head of inclusivity board, shared some favorite recipes from her grandmother who was born in Puerto Rico. She shared, “Some of my best memories with her are cooking in the kitchen and serving dinner to my parents after they came home from work. I still love cooking to this day, and I believe that nothing is better than a meal shared with people you love.”

The month-long celebration concluded with a virtual event hosted by the Parents Association and Parents of Daughters of Color Committee. The event featured guest speakers Honorable Patria Frias-Colón (New York City court justice), Cristina Pieretti (head of Moody’s Analytics real estate information services), and Katherine Jimenez (international performer and choreographer). Nightingale’s own Chef Manager Joel Hinds-Ortiz also led a live cooking demonstration that included making beef empanadas.

As Nightingale reflects on this important month, we encourage our community members to continue the celebration beyond October 15 by speaking with your Hispanic and Latine/x friends and hearing their stories, reading books by and about Hispanic and Latine/x individuals, and researching more Hispanic and Latine/x individuals who share their unique cultures, traditions, and contributions with the world around them.

Thank you to our families, students, and community members for welcoming us into your homes, telling your stories, and lifting up the Hispanic and Latine/x voices within and beyond our blue doors.