Elizabeth Cardona, Executive Director of Multicultural Affairs, International Student Life and Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, has been selected as the Cultural Ambassador for the 2017 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade. The event will make its way down Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 17. This honor has deep meaning for Cardona, who shared her reflections on the appointment, her heritage, and the upcoming event in this Q&A.
What does your appointment to Cultural Ambassador for the 2017 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade mean to you personally?
Being selected as the 2017 Cultural Ambassador by the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade Committee has been a humbling experience for me and my family. Puerto Ricans are a strong collective community that thrives on family and traditions. Our rich and vibrant culture has contributed immensely to music, art, and education, and through this honor I hope to continue to explore ways of building community and promoting the Puerto Rican people and culture.
What is the significance of the parade in the larger community?
Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the US. According to the 2014 US Census, approximately 58% of Latinos residing in Connecticut and 42% living in Massachusetts identify as Puerto Rican. The Springfield Puerto Rican Parade, with more than 100 marching contingencies and over 4,000 marchers from all over New England, is an incredibly amazing celebration of our culture, and the day is full of enthusiasm and pride.
Why is it important to celebrate cultural heritage?
My grandfather came to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1958 to work at the tobacco farms in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. In this area, he found economic advantages, however he also lived a conflicted life isolated from my grandmother and his fifteen children. Additionally, he was often at a loss trying to make sense of his new home and social environment. My grandfather's narrative is a classic example of the Puerto Rican migration story which is still very much similar for many members of the Latino community. Individuals and families coming to this region are often compelled to do so for a better life for their families and more fruitful economic opportunities. Celebrating and honoring our culture and heritage allows us to reflect on our trajectory and recognize our accomplishments and resilience.
What are you most looking forward to at the parade?
The Springfield Puerto Rican Parade will take place on Sunday, September 17, 2017. The highlight of the annual event is connecting with community members and watching the showcase of creative floats and energetic parade marchers displaying the Puerto Rican flag colors. This year, I'm very excited and looking forward to the engagement of Bay Path University's marching contingency and the involvement of students, faculty, and staff who will be planning and designing a float for the parade and taking part in the festivities.
Learn more about the event by visiting the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade website.