ATLANTIC CITY — A photography exhibit highlighting Hispanic culture in South Jersey is on display at the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University.
The Hispanic Heritage Month Photo Exhibition features images of local events and celebrations of Hispanic heritage. Juan Rodriguez, founder and director of New Life Alliance, has organized the exhibit for years but said this is the first time he has showcased his photos in Atlantic City.
“I’ve taken these photos from many events over the years,” Rodriguez said. “I go to Cinco De Mayo, Puerto Rican Day, the Vineland parade and events all throughout Cumberland and Atlantic counties.”
Rodriguez pointed out photos he took during the Vineland Cinco De Mayo parade in 2016, featuring traditional Mexican dancing horses.
“I think it’s beautiful and great to show in pictures,” he said.
Latino Cultural Association President Hector Rivera explained how the celebration of Latino culture is so important in areas such as South Jersey, where the Hispanic and Latino population has grown rapidly during the past decade. He said it offers an opportunity to bring to light issues facing the Hispanic community.
“The association does a lot in the county and has expanded to Vineland because of the growing Hispanic population,” Rivera said. “We provide social services focusing on immigration and medical services.”
National Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and continues until Oct. 15.
According to the Library of Congress website, Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico’s independence day Sept. 16 and Chile’s independence day Sept. 18. President Ronald Reagan expanded Hispanic heritage week to a 30-day observance in 1988.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez was setting up to host an event honoring individuals and community groups that have helped his nonprofit organization.
Ventnor attorney Jude Nelson was one of the honorees as a supporter of Rodriguez’s exhibit.
“Many of my clients are Mexican, Honduran, El Salvadoran … and by supporting the Latino community and promoting their culture, it shows what that culture has to offer to the whole community” Nelson said.
“Without immigrants, there’s no America. All of us, we have a heritage, and it’s important to celebrate it.”