Head of School Virginia Connor’s inaugural Chapel presentation was a celebration of one of the great neighborhoods of New York City—Washington Heights.
Each year, Ms. Connor chooses a particular theme to explore in her weekly Chapel talks. This year, she said, she will focus on one of the great natural resources of New York City and the Northeast: the Hudson River. This first Chapel address took place on the cusp of the school’s observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, and Ms. Connor highlighted history and culture of this Latinx hub overlooking the Hudson.
To fill Gordon Chapel with Hispanic language and traditions, she invited Elizabeth Ortega, who teaches lower division Spanish, to help students recite the “Hail Mary” in Spanish.
Eboni Washington, senior kindergarten teacher and member of the DEIL team, described the warmth and vibrance of Washington Heights and Inwood, where she lived when she first moved to New York.
“No matter the country of origin, two things that remain the same in most Latinx communities are the language and the strong sense of family,” said Ms. Washington. “We all look out for each other.” She recalled an older neighbor who would often check to make sure she arrived home safely at night, and the clerks at her favorite grocery store who called her “mija,” a term of endearment short for “mi hija” or “my daughter.”
“Everywhere you look in Washington Heights and Inwood,” Ms. Washington concluded, “you will see bits and pieces of Afro-Latino, Central and South American culture that people bring with them and make it that much more rich—and incredibly colorful!”
FULL TEXT OF MS. WASHINGTON’S REMARKS:
For me, an important part of Washington Heights/Inwood is the wide variety of Latinx individuals who call that neighborhood home. I would often walk around Inwood, and as I traveled from one block to another I could hear several types of Latinx music ranging from Bachata (of Dominican origin) to Mexican mariachi, Raggaeton to Cumbia.
The wide range of Latinx people in my old neighborhood made me feel safe. No matter the country of origin, two things that remain the same of almost all Latinx communities are the language and the strong sense of family. We all looked out for each other. My neighbor, an older woman that had been in my building since the 60’s, would often check on me to make sure I got home safely at night. The clerks at my favorite grocery store called me “mija,” a term of endearment short for “mi hija” or “my daughter”. The owner of the bodega around the corner remembered all of his customers’ names and alerted me whenever the avocados were ready.
Another tradition that I had was walking through Inwood Park to the very edge of the park where you could actually sit alongside the Hudson River. During the warmer months, you can often find adult soccer tournaments being played on that side of the park. In some ways it is really strange to sit on the northernmost tip of Manhattan Island and see the natural beauty that the Lenape people must have witnessed while full blown soccer games are going on behind you.
Soccer is such a vital part of the Latinx community, and it is incredible to see so many people gathered together to continue the tradition of Sunday soccer, regardless of how far away from home they are. Soccer is like a shared language, or shared values. Vendors would sell traditional street food from all over Central America, onlookers sat in their folding lawn chairs, and children ran around practicing their soccer skills debating on who was going to be Chicharito or Ronaldo. It was like an international Latinx family reunion every Sunday.
Everywhere you look in Washington Heights and Inwood, you will see bits and pieces of Afro-Latino, Central and South American culture that people bring with them and make it that much more rich—and incredibly colorful!