St. John Parish Library celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Published 6:37 pm Monday, October 9, 2023

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In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the St. John the Baptist Parish Library has been hosting a series of vibrant and culturally rich events across all its branches, celebrating the heritage and contributions of Hispanic communities. These events serve as an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together, learn, and appreciate Hispanic culture.

Carlos Diaz, a library staff member, has been actively involved in organizing and hosting these events. He shares his experiences and insights into the library’s efforts to embrace Hispanic culture during this special month.

“I did a program called Cafe con Pan, which is like coffee and bread or coffee and cake. And it went pretty well. It was Monday, Sept. 18,” Diaz said.

The event was carefully planned to align with Hispanic traditions. “We did it at four o’clock because it’s tradition in the Hispanic community that we drink coffee at four o’clock,” Diaz said.

Diaz went the extra mile by offering homemade coffee cakes baked by his mother, as well as traditional treats like rosquillas and semitas.

“Rosquillas are like corn rings that go great with coffee, people just dunk them in their coffee cup. And then we had semitas, which is like sweetbread,” Diaz said. “And then we put on Spanish music, and I wore my little Honduran shirt. It was cute. And we had a good turnout.”

The library’s Hispanic Heritage Month events cater to all age groups. They’ve designed programs for children, teenagers, and adults, ensuring that everyone in the community can participate and learn about the significance of Hispanic culture.

“Tomorrow I’m hosting one. It’s sugar skulls. It’s closer to Halloween and Día de los Muertos, which is Nov. 1,” Diaz said. “Just think of the movie Coco.”

Diaz is not just passionate about celebrating Hispanic heritage; he also takes pride in assisting members of the community. 

“Independently, right now, ESL classes are being taught, it just happened to coincide with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, which crosses months from September 15 through October 15,” Diaz said. 

The library has been providing valuable information and fact sheets about the history and significance of Hispanic Heritage Month, educating the community about its roots.

“I do speak Spanish. So that’s helpful here,” Diaz said. “We have a growing Hispanic populace in St. John Parish, so it helps to have a bilingual person. You know, they can feel comfortable to ask questions if they don’t have a strong command of the English language. Then I’m more than happy to help them in our native tongue, and then we can get them what they need.”

The St. John the Baptist Parish Library strives to be more than just a place for books. It serves as a welcoming community hub, offering resources, support and a safe space for everyone. 

“We always try to have something very nice for the community here, which lets them know that all are welcome and this is a safe place for them,” Diaz said.

Reflecting on his past experiences, Diaz shared a heartwarming story.

“In years past, when I was the supervisor of Edgard in the West Bank, I helped a couple of patrons. They were studying to become U.S. citizens. You have to go through a myriad of websites, so I helped them do that and helped them get their paperwork squared away and stuff like that,” Diaz said. “A year later, one of the gentlemen came back and he shook my hand and said thank you, and he was a U.S. citizen. He showed me his certificate signed by then-President Trump. That made me feel good, that I played a very small part in helping somebody become a U.S. citizen. Because it’s a long process.”

This week, the St. John Parish Library is holding events across its branches to celebrate Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a two day holiday where families create ofrendas (offerings) to honor their departed family members that have passed.

Kids in all ages groups are invited to design and paint a colorful Calavera, decorative skulls used in the Mexican celebration.

The first program took place this evening, Oct. 9, at Roland Borne, Sr. Memorial Library in Edgard. Programs will also be held at Leroy D. Williams Memorial Library on Oct. 10 at 3:30 p.m. and the LaPlace branch of Norris J. Millet, Sr. Library and Frazee-Harris Memorial Library on Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.

For more information on these programs or programs to come, visit the St. John the Baptist Parish Library Facebook page.