Amherst moves Puerto Rican Heritage Day to celebrate revolt, not colonization

  • Amherst students and adults gather at the Amherst Town Hall steps for the Puerto Rican Day flag raising and celebration on Nov. 19, 2017.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2019 6:55:35 PM

AMHERST — For the past 22 years, the Puerto Rican flag has flown on a flagpole near Town Hall throughout the month of November to recognize the contributions the residents of the island have made to Amherst and the United States.

The annual celebration of Puerto Rican Heritage Day this year, though, will be moved to Monday, Sept. 23, a decision that Marta Guevara, the director of student and family engagement for the public schools, told the Town Council was recommended by a committee students, staff and families to become the new date for the event.

Guevara, who came to Amherst from Puerto Rico in 1974, explained that Gritode Lares, a revolt against Spanish rule in Puerto Rico, began on Sept. 23, 1868, and is a better date to mark than Nov. 19. That was the date in 1493 when Christopher Columbus arrived on the island and encountered the Taino Indians.

“We wanted to just highlight that instead of the colonization of the island,” Guevara said.

She said the event, which will run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in front of Town Hall, will feature performances by students and staff of the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools and members of the community, including dancing and spoken word presentations.

The Puerto Rican flag, which will fly for a week, will be raised and there will be a reading of a proclamation issued by the Town Council, which continues to offer support to those affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The hope, Guevara added, is that the celebration will be expanded in 2020 to become Latino Heritage Month.

Nov. 19 was proclaimed Puerto Rico Day in Massachusetts by former Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1989.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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