AMHERST — Amnerys Cuevas left her dwelling in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria 4 years in the past, arriving in Amherst so her toddler might have good medical care.
Now in her third 12 months educating Spanish within the Caminantes twin language program at Fort River College, Cuevas stated she feels proud to be a part of the bigger neighborhood and to be welcomed regardless of having no household connections and talking little English.
“I’m grateful as a result of folks have acquired us and helped us,” Cuevas stated.
Cuevas was amongst these acknowledged Thursday morning by Carmen Yulin Cruz, the previous San Juan mayor, throughout her keynote handle at Puerto Rican Heritage Day, with about 300 folks, together with quite a few kids from Amherst and Pelham colleges, gathered on the North Frequent. Cruz prompt folks give a digital hug to those that have left the island as a means of exhibiting them love.
“I really feel so proud for her and everybody right here,” Cuevas stated after Cruz spoke. “I really like the Puerto Rican neighborhood right here in Amherst.”
The annual occasion, this 12 months coinciding with Latino Heritage Month celebrations and held for the primary time in two years as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, is organized by Marta Guevara, director of Scholar and Household Engagement for the Amherst Regional Public Colleges.
Guevara stated the occasion acknowledges contributions from the Puerto Rican neighborhood, observing that assist for newcomers has elevated dramatically since her arrival to Amherst greater than 40 years in the past when she was dropped off along with her household from a Greyhound bus within the city heart.
Those that have arrived from Puerto Rico to the Amherst space need to make a distinction and at the moment are giving again, Cruz stated. Individuals can reciprocate by exhibiting them love and respect. “You haven’t any concept how welcome you are feeling when you’re cherished,” Cruz stated.
Cruz pointed to her personal buddies in Amherst, South Hadley and Holyoke who supported her restoration from COVID-19, and she or he thanked Amherst for being the positioning the place she was administered COVID-19 vaccine.
Superintendent Michael Morris stated he has visited Puerto Rico 4 instances, and that every time there he has been impressed by the folks’s allure. Morris stated that very same allure has been introduced by Puerto Ricans now dwelling in Amherst.
“We’re higher since you are right here,” Morris stated.
In the course of the occasion, a flag that was flown in Outdated San Juan after Hurricane Maria, introduced by Cruz, was raised on the flag pole in entrance of City Corridor. Additionally, kids within the Caminantes program danced and waved Puerto Rican flags as a medley of Puerto Rican songs have been carried out by José Gonzalez and his son Ahmed Gonzalez.
First graders in Giselle Gonzalez’s Pelham Elementary College class talked concerning the Tainos, the native folks of Puerto Rico, and members of the City Council learn a proclamation in assist of Puerto Rico.
Public faculty college students from Puerto Rico now dwelling in Amherst say they recognize the occasion.
“It’s vital that this occurs yearly as a result of it reminds folks of the tradition and the variety round right here,” stated Jaden Caraballo, 15, a tenth grader at Amherst Regional Excessive College
Caraballo, who has lived on the town for 9 years, stated he instantly felt welcome to the neighborhood when he arrived, though he needed to adapt to his new dwelling.
Sixth grader Valeria Velez, 11, stated this was the primary time she had attended the occasion, and the message of friendship and compassion resonated along with her. “I actually preferred the audio system and what they stated,” Velez stated.
Adrian Fernandez, a 13-year-old eighth grader, has lived in Amherst for 5 years. The occasion is emotional for him as a result of his personal expertise with a brand new tradition.
“I needed to make new buddies,” he stated about coming to city. “There’s additionally winter.”
“You get represented and that feels actually nice,” stated Andrea Luciano, 15, an eleventh grader at the highschool.
Scott Merzbach will be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.