The Village of Freeport is celebrating all that is Latino during Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and the epicenter of the events is the Freeport Memorial Library.
The library already featured Puerto Rican journalist and author Cristy Marrero, and will also host Kianny Antigua, a writer and Dartmouth University adjunct professor, on Sept. 28. Antigua will present her novel “Calendula,” with stories from her native Dominican Republic. The library is also hosting a concert featuring Freeport’s own merengue and bachata band, Los Amigos del Amargue, on Sept. 30.
Hispanic Heritage Month acknowledges the contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Throughout the month, famous Latinos are also celebrated for their creative works and contributions to Hispanic culture. Among them are actress Rita Moreno, singer Marc Anthony, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and author Oscar Hijuelos.
The first celebration, lasting a week, took place in 1968, but it later expanded, and was officially recognized as a 30-day event in 1988, ac-cording to the National Council of Hispanic Em-ployment Program Managers. In March, the
organization an-nounced that the theme of this year’s celebration would be Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions. Ideally, it will prompt Latino-Americans to reflect on their tradition, history and culture.
The Freeport Library is marking the month with a series of events. “We’re trying something different,” reference librarian Chris Bisonette said.
Bisonette said he hopes the month will spark more Freeporters to want to read books in Spanish. In its collection, the library has an expansive list of fiction and nonfiction Spanish-language books available to readers of all ages. During the summer, the library held a bilingual reading program to encourage parents and children to read in English and Spanish.
Marrero presented her novel, “Las Imperfectas,” or the “The Imperfect Ones,” in English. The book explores women’s issues, examining how women think. The stories, Marrero said, were inspired by real women she met throughout her life. The often-humorous stories are intended to break down stereotypes of Hispanic culture.
“While writing this book,” she said, “I realized that one of my missions, throughout my career, was breaking stereotypes about Latinos, especially around women.”
“Las Imperfectas,” published in 2016, features 10 stories of 10 different women: Maria, Linda, Martita, Astrid, Gladys, Victoria, Yamila, Zulma, Elisa and Cecilia, and captures them at different points in their lives. Each has a distinct voice and personality.
“Comparing all Latinos as the same would be like [putting] the Australians, British and Americans into one box, too,” Marrero said. “The thing about the U.S. is that everyone wants to put us in this little box of Latinos. There are 30 something different countries that are only united by language, but it doesn’t mean anything because we’re so different.”
Writing a novel is just one aspect of Marrero’s life. She is the former editor of Siempre Mujer and Ser Padre magazines. Reflecting on her editorial work, she said she remembered a time when she was trying to understand the Hispanic voices of her readers and write so everyone had a voice. She has collected a number of accolades, including being the first Hispanic to receive the Women in Communications Inc. Rising Star Award, in 2013. She was also the 2014 Julia de Burgos Award honoree at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, the 2015 MIN Most Intriguing People in Media honoree and the 2015 Folio Awards Top Women in Media honoree.
Marrero, who lives in Ridgewood, Queens, is keeping busy these days with her 2-month-old daughter and is working on her second novel, which she plans to release next year.