HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Friday is the first day of a weekend conference focusing on Puerto Rico at Holyoke Community College (HCC).

More than 250 scholars, researchers, academics, artists, and students will be on campus for the weekend-long event. The three-day conference of the Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA) features more than 100 sessions, roundtable discussions, and workshops on topics such as race, natural disasters, debt, displacement, climate, education, labor, politics, citizenship, art, resistance, and so much more.

Joaquin Villanueva, the President of PRSA stated, “We invite scholars that are interested in Puerto Rico, the diaspora, from Puerto Rico, from the United States anyone interested in Puerto Rican issues to come and talk and convene and discuss the future of Puerto Rico.”

This conference is hosted by both HCC and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), with the conference being free for all students, faculty, and staff from both universities. Most of the event will be at HCC during the day, and STCC will host the PRSA commencement dinner and gala on Saturday, October 15 with a keynote address from Bárbara Abadía-Rexach, professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University.

“Puerto Rico hasn’t been able to handle those adequately or respond to the needs, particularly the electrical grid is crumbling and the response is very slow. So we want to think about what could be different,” said Villanueva.

More than 25% of students who attend both schools identify as Hispanic or Latino, and Holyoke has the largest Puerto Rican population per capita of any city in the continental U.S., which is 44.7% according to the 2010 Census.

Student Kiana Gonzalez-Cedeno said, “Folks think Puerto Ricans are so resilient and we are but also constantly fighting colonial structures. So it’s just like yes, but FEMA needs to come in and help.”

“We’re so happy to be hosting this year’s PRSA conference with our friends at STCC and shining a light on our local communities and their close connections to Puerto Rico,” said HCC president Christina Royal. “It’s especially meaningful given that we are also now celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Moriviví: Activating Puerto Rican Futures – Full Schedule

There will also be several focused discussions on Holyoke facilitated by local experts on Puerto Rico and Latinx issues such as:

  • Friday, Oct. 14, 9-10:30 a.m., “Puerto Rican Holyoke,” a presentation on the Carlos Vega Collection by Penni Martorell, the curator at Wistiriahurst Museum and Holyoke city historian.
  • Friday, Oct. 14, 10:40-12:10 p.m. Roundtable: “Amherst-Holyoke-Adjuntas,” facilitated by Paul A. Schroeder Rodríguez (Amherst College), Sony Coráñez Bolton (Amherst College), and Raúl Gutiérrez (Holyoke Community College).
  • Saturday, Oct. 15, 2-3:30 p.m. Roundtable: “Constructing an Inclusive Digital History of Holyoke Neighborhoods,” facilitated by Abner Aldarondo (Amherst College graduate and  Dumbarton Oaks research fellow at Harvard University) and Eileen Mary Crosby (reference librarian for historical collections at the Holyoke Public Library).

The national conference began at 8:45 a.m. on Friday in the lobby of the HCC Fine & Performing Arts building and will conclude Sunday at 1:45 p.m.