From amateur cooking demonstrations to an art show and a conversation with Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” actress Selenis Leyva, Bay Path University is finding ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month virtually.
“Poder Latinx! Elevating Our Voices, Owning Our Now!” is a series of virtual events hosted by the university in October to celebrate the month, which began on Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15.
“We wanted to engage our students and the community to celebrate many facets of Latinx heritage,” said Elizabeth Cardona, the university’s executive director of Multicultural Affairs & International Student Life.
The start of the annual celebration commemorates the independence days in six countries. Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica celebrate their independence from Spain on the 15th and Mexican Independence Day is on Sept. 16.
Cardona said there has been a lot of interest in the digital art show as well as people submitting short video clips making some of their favorite Latin recipes.
“This is a time when a lot of folks are at home and we wanted to encourage them to express their dreams and hopes for the future and to discuss the challenges they have faced in their lives and during this time, be that through art or through food or conversation,” she said.
The highlight of the events will be a virtual conversation with Selenis Leyva on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. Leyva is best known for portraying Gloria Mendoza on the Netflix comedy-drama series “Orange is the New Black,” she is currently starring in “Diary of a Future President” a comedy-drama series on Disney Plus.
“Right now race is on everybody’s mind and we wanted to tie that into this celebration and bring awareness that even within the Latinx community race is something we are working through,” Cardona said. “It was important to us to highlight someone who identifies as Afro-Latina. Selenis is Cuban and Dominican, and her story of being raised in the Bronx and from the Bronx making it to Hollywood, that doesn’t usually happen. Her story is captivating.”
Leyva also recently authored a book along with her sister Marizol Leyva titled “My Sister: How One Sibling’s Transition Changed Us Both.”
“What makes Selenis amazing is that she is super humble and that’s critical because we want to be able to identify with her story,” Cardona said. “We also hope from her to learn how to be better allies to the LGBTQI community. In the book she talks about how her sister’s transition was very challenging for her and for her family and how she worked through that.”
Cardona said registration for the event is free and open to the public — not only locally but to anyone who wants to participate.
“We were trying to find a speaker who could provide opportunities for us to come together. Someone who would be influential and dynamic and could speak to the experiences of the Latinx community. We were very fortunate to connect with Selenis and we are very excited about our program and we hope that we get a good turnout,” she said.
To register for the Leyva event click here. All registered attendees will be entered to win a signed copy of her book.
The university will also be offering the following virtual events. All events are free to attend, but registration is required:
Latinx Cooking Presentations: Oct. 7-Oct. 15
These virtual cooking presentations will be made up of videos or photos of students, staff and people in the community cooking Latin dishes.
The deadline to submit videos or photos is Oct. 7. For more information and to submit, please click here.
“We hope people will also share the recipes so that others can make them at home and we can all celebrate Latinx dishes,” Cardona said.
Latinx Artist Panel Discussion: Oct. 8 at 7:00 p.m.
Local artists including Springfield’s Poet Laureate Magdalena Gomez, and Ellis Echevarria, Jason R. Montgomery, and Elizabeth Erazo Baez will discuss how their cultural identity has been a source of inspiration and motivation for their work.
The artists are currently being featured in “Roots/Raíces” an exhibition at Art for the Soul Gallery in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The event is held in collaboration with Art for the Soul Gallery and is co-sponsored by the Springfield Cultural Council. Register for this virtual event here.
Virtual Art Show: Oct. 15 at 6:45 p.m.
Artists are invited to submit high-resolution photos of an original artwork piece to be shared in a virtual art show. The artwork can reflect any medium. The theme should highlight Latinx culture, identity, experiences, or trending topics.
Participants do not need to be a trained artist, or a member of the Latino community. The art show is open to the public as well as university students and staff. The deadline to submit photos is Oct. 7. For more information and to submit a photo click here.