Celebrate the People Who Shape Hispanic Culture

Celebrate the People Who Shape Hispanic Culture


WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Artist Judith Baca says she operates under the philosophy of “break the mold” while she uses her art as an impetus for social change. Who knew that Mario Molina, who aspired as a child to be a professional violinist, would change focus and go on to win a Nobel Prize for Chemistry for work on environmental issues? Antonia Novello says it was a competitive streak that pushed her to excel in school and eventually rise to the ranks of U.S. Surgeon General, becoming the first woman and the first Hispanic to hold the position.

These three biographies are just a sample of the illustrated anthology of inspirational stories shared through the “Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement,” (OJOS) on view at the Michigan State University Museum from September 16, 2008 through January 4, 2009. The exhibition marks the culmination of a tour that has taken place since 2004. In their own words, celebrated U.S. Latinos who have put their indelible mark on American life through their significant contributions to their community and Hispanic heritage, share their experiences.

The bilingual exhibition was developed by the Smithsonian Latino Center and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and its national tour and related programs made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund. The exhibition has traveled to 11 different locations over the last four and a half years, and more than 1.2 million people have visited it, coming away with memories and inspiration to last a lifetime.

OJOS is more than a stagnant display of pictures and words. It is an evolving educational tool that projects far beyond the walls of museums to the communities all across the country that the exhibit hopes to inspire. Understanding the importance of extending the stories of achievement, self-discovery, roots, and traditions on display to the widest audience possible, Ford established Local and National Committees of Honor, comprised of nearly 2,000 individuals like senators, mayors, governors, and community leaders to further spread the message of Hispanic achievement.

“These stories celebrate what’s at the heart of so many Latino success stories — a desire to achieve and make a difference,” said Jim Vella, president of Ford Motor Company Fund. “Visitors to this Smithsonian exhibition will have the opportunity to learn about Latinos who have made varying but very important contributions to the American fabric.”

For any woman who has wondered if she can make it in a “man’s world,” simply look to Linda Alvarado, president and CEO of Alvarado Construction, Inc. She’s proven that Hispanics are more than just construction laborers, and that a woman can be successful in a career dominated by men. For immigrants who wonder if they’ll assimilate and grasp the English language and culture, learn about writer Víctor Villaseñor and how he overcame the language barrier when he came to America and how he wrestled with feelings of familial inadequacy when he started to attend school. And while Hispanics rally for affirmative action and civil rights as a collective community, Senator Bill Richardson knows they also have an interest in jobs, education and other mainstream American issues.

The history of Hispanic culture stretches wide and is varied. There has never been a better time to engage the senses and spirits of Hispanic America and come away with important lessons about embracing their heritage. OJOS is one way to start. To learn more, visit http://latino.si.edu/virtualgallery/OJOS/OJosTitle-draft.html . Additionally, Michigan State University Museum has worked with campus, community and state educators and leaders to develop a series of educational programs for Hispanic Heritage Month and throughout the run of the exhibit. For more, see http://museum.msu.edu .

SOURCE Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C.

Celebrate the People Who Shape Hispanic Culture