Spanish-language mayoral forum set for Thursday in Holyoke

  • Blandford Town Administrator Joshua Garcia, left, and Holyoke At-large City Councilor Michael Sullivan. Sullivan and Garcia came in first and second, respectively, in Holyoke's preliminary mayoral election on Sept. 21, 2021, and will compete against each other in the general election on Nov. 2, 2021. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2021 2:14:19 PM

HOLYOKE — The two candidates competing to become Holyoke’s next mayor are taking part Thursday in a Spanish-language forum in the Flats neighborhood.

The mayoral forum will take place at 6 p.m. in the Flats Community Building at 43 North Canal St. Community members are also invited to a meet-and-greet before the forum, beginning at 5 p.m. The event will also be streamed live on Holyoke Media’s Facebook channel and will be available afterward on other platforms and television.

The Greater Holyoke Chamber and OneHolyoke Community Development Corporation are putting on the event together with The Club at the Flats Community Building. The two candidates running for mayor are Blandford Town Administrator Joshua Garcia and At-large City Councilor Michael Sullivan.

Iohann Vega, Holyoke Media’s director of media engagement, said that the organizers have arranged for professionals to interpret what the candidates are saying in English into Spanish. To Vega’s knowledge, this is the first time such a forum has been organized as Spanish-language first in Holyoke.

“Sometimes we see the attempt to have Spanish as a second thought or last minute,” he said. “I don’t recall anything of this sort happening.”

Holyoke is a city where 54% of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, according to census data. Public meetings and electoral forums, however, are rarely interpreted into Spanish. It was only this year that the city began using interpretation services for City Council meetings, though the Council’s important subcommittee meetings and minutes are not interpreted or translated.

Vega said that it could be possible that Thursday’s event is the first Spanish-language mayoral forum to take place in the state, though he couldn’t be certain.

“I would not be surprised,” he said. “Though I hope not.”

Regardless, Vega said the forum as the possibility of demonstrating to other community organizations who do such events in Holyoke that Spanish-language interpretation is a must.

“It can no longer be an afterthought,” he said. “It has to be intentional … Now there is no excuse not to do it in the future.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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