In accordance with New York City’s fifth annual Immigrant Heritage Week (April 14-20), St. John’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) organized an event to discuss the positive impact of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants in the city and the issues that affect their community.
The presentation, which was held on Saturday, April 19 in Marillac Terrace, was titled “Community Dialogue among Caribbean and Latin American Immigrants in New York City.”
According to Dr. Alina Camacho-Gingerich, head of the CLACS, the event was held because “St. John’s supports the immigrant community and tries to reach out to them as much as they can.”
She added that the community dialogue focused on New Yorkers with origins in the Caribbean and Latin American because they make up an “overwhelming majority of immigrants in New York and the United States.”
Camacho-Gingerich said that she hopes students recognize the size and importance of the immigrant community and their individual role within it.
“I hope the students realize [from this presentation] we have to know who we are and where we came from in order to better help each other overcome differences,” she said.
Additionally, the presentation consisted of speakers from different backgrounds associated with the immigrant community.
Guillermo Linares, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, discussed what the city government is trying to do to help the immigrant population.
“Our mission is to help facilitate access to public services and information to immigrants regardless of their immigration status … to serve as a bridge between the government and the immigrant community,” he said.
Ambassador of Guyana to the U.S., Baynan Karran, mentioned that diversity is equally important as international dialogue. Karran said that “conversation is vital to collaboration and achieving social and ethnic tolerance.”
Gladys Garcia, consul of the Peruvian ministry of diplomacy, spoke on the immigrant history of the U.S. and the different courses of migration-forced and voluntary.
Another speaker, Dr. Rafael Javier, a St. John’s psychology professor, highlighted a few of the issues that immigrants need to deal with, including learning the language and culture of their new country.
Javier explained that this is very difficult for immigrants because they do not want to deny themselves of their heritage. He went on to describe his own experience as a non-native American when he started to learn English and American culture and was accused by friends and family of neglecting his roots.
His response to them was “I am not losing my culture, I am enriching it.”