Hello! My name is Alexandra (Alex) Santiago and I will be the archive intern at Wistariahurst Museum for the next five months (Spring 2021). I am currently in my last semester at Holyoke Community College (HCC), where I am pursuing my associate’s degree in Latinx Studies. This degree has helped me understand the reasons why there is a large presence of Latinx folks from Latin America and the Caribbean in the United States. In addition, I have gained a better understanding of my own experience as a Puerto Rican who recently migrated to the U.S.
I was raised in a town called Isabela and I moved to Holyoke in 2017 after hurricane María struck the island. When I tell people this, they usually ask me what I miss the most about P.R. and I always mention the weather and the beaches. The weather in Puerto Rico is tropical, therefore it feels like Summer almost year-round. The only exceptions are the months of December and January when the weather might go down to the high 50 degrees in the mountainous regions of the island and 70 degrees in the coastal towns. After almost four years, my family and I are still getting used to the weather in Massachusetts.
My hometown in P.R. has a few beaches, such as Middles and Jobos, that are known for hosting international surfing contests. Apart from attending surf contests with my friends, I also enjoyed snorkeling at a small beach cove located in another beach called Montones. However, moving to Massachusetts has given me the opportunity to witness the changes of four seasons throughout the year, which is something that I wouldn’t be able to experience in Puerto Rico. Now I can say that my second favorite season is Fall. Besides, enrolling in HCC has helped me stabilize my career goals and has shown me the importance of being involved in my community(ies).
Apart from studying at HCC, I am the vice-president of the Latinx Empowerment Association. We are actively engaged in the college and the city. For example, we have hosted fundraising events on campus and led panel discussions for Wistariahurst Museum. Since we started studying remotely, we have been curating an ongoing social media series called “Celebrating the Latinx Community”, where we highlight the impact that different Latinx folks have in the Holyoke community. Suitably, I will be researching the Carlos Vega Collection during my internship at Wistariahurst and developing an online trivia quiz about my findings in the collection. Vega was an Ecuadorian who moved to Holyoke when he was five and dedicated his life to politics and social justice at the local and national level. He was a very influential person among the Latinx community of Holyoke and I’m interested in learning about the changes that he was able to bring forth. With my research and trivia, I strive to review the facets of the social, political, and cultural Latinx experience in Holyoke and share them with the community.
Hopefully, this project sparks the interest of Latinx and non-Latinx Holyoke community members to go look at the Carlos Vega Collection at Wistariahurst Museum and/or use it for research.