Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College hosted a weekend-long national conference on Puerto Rico that culminated with a dinner and gala at STCC on Saturday night.

HCC hosted several roundtable discussions on Friday and Saturday. The event moved to the seventh floor of STCC’s Scibelli Hall (Building 2) Saturday evening with a presentation of awards and keynote address by Bárbara Abadía-Rexach. Saturday marked the end of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The conference, which was free to all students, faculty, and staff at HCC and STCC, featured more than 100 sessions, roundtables, and workshops on the subjects of race, natural disasters, debt, displacement, climate, education, labor, politics, citizenship, agriculture, art, resistance, and more.

Saturday night at STCC’s Scibelli Hall, 7th Floor (Photo credit: State Rep. Jake Oliveira’s office)

Rosa Sanchez-Santiago, community outreach counselor in the Student Success Center, attended the entire conference and gala.

“The conference had scholars from all over the nation and Puerto Rico attend and present on issues of past and present surrounding our Puerto Rican community,” she said. “It was an intense 3 days of education and enlightenment that highlighted how to continue to work with the Puerto Rican diaspora we currently serve and the new wave migrants from Hurricane Maria, and now Fiona, including the current state of the island.”

More than 100 people attended including Holyoke community members, students and staff along with STCC students, and staff.  On Saturday at STCC, the gala featured Puerto Rican music and dance by Bomba de Aqui.

The theme was morivivi, a beautiful plant that blooms a flower which closes as a defense mechanism and then opens back up when it feels safe.

“The PRSA metaphorically compared our PR community as this flower – hence the theme of survival,” Sanchez-Santiago said.

Food was provided by MexiRico and included rice, pork, chicken, macaroni salad, green salad and appetizers  such as empanadillas, alcapurrias, and rellenos de papa and desserts. 

The PRSA conference came to STCC on Saturday night (photo credit: State Rep. Jake Oliveira’s office)

Both STCC and HCC colleges are federally designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions, with more than 25 percent of their student populations identified as Puerto Rican or Latinx.

Quoted in MassLive, PRSA President Joaquin Villanueva said the conference attracts academics who concentrate on Puerto Rico and gives them an opportunity to network with others in the same field of study.

“Puerto Rican Studies Association is the main academic organization for people who study Puerto Rico and the diaspora, and this conference is for them to present their work and share ideas, have intellectual exchanges on all topics,” he told MassLive.

PRSA Vice President Marisol Lebron told MassLive: “The theme of this year’s conference is activating Puerto Rico’s future,” she said. “We are trying to get people to not only think about the kinds of difficulties that Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico are facing at this moment but to also think about what it would mean to imagine and try to build a more just and a more sustainable future for Puerto Rico. How do we create an alternate future for Puerto Rican where things are not so precarious, where things are more just.”