In commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month 2017, and in fulfilling JSRI’s commitment to the Lansing area Latino community, the Institute held a series of lectures at Cristo Rey Church during the fall.  Invited and hosted by Dr. Saturnino Rodriguez, Drs. Rubén Martinez and Juan Coronado dedicated time on five Sunday mornings to address an adult learning group.  The topics discussed included the history of Latinos in the United States, changing demographics of Latinos, educational needs and aspirations of Latinos, civil rights struggles of Latinos, and the history of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The presentations were delivered in Spanish and English to primarily adult parishioners of Cristo Rey Church who are lifelong engaged learners. Between fifty and seventy-five enthusiastic attendees joined every Sunday, with several sharing pertinent experiences regarding the given topics. Many of the attendees recalled the segregated society in which they grew up. Jim Crow extended beyond White and African American communities to Latino communities.  The attendees reflected on their school days as children being pushed out or forced to dropout due to their oppressive treatment in the school systems.
Mainly working-class persons, many of the older participants (60 years of age and older) came to Michigan early in life as part of the migrant farmworker stream. Most left their homes in Texas and sought better life opportunities than the limited ones riddled with open discrimination back home.  Middle aged (45-60 years of age) participants were mostly of Mexican origin, while slightly younger immigrants were from either Mexico or Central America. The overall group was comprised of both U.S. citizens and resident aliens and although slight differences existed amongst them, uniting the entire group was their common struggle for inclusion beyond their marginalized statuses. The audience’s genuine interest in the subject matter is demonstrative of their eagerness to learn. It is also evident that regardless of language barriers, Spanish-speaking people are interested in learning more about Latinos in the U.S. and their struggles for a better society.
Many Americans cannot distinguish Latinos who are citizens from those who are foreign born and tend to assign all of them a common identity—Mexican immigrants.  They also seem unable to see the commonalities that they share with Latinos. The attendees at Cristo Rey, like many Michiganians, work hard to provide the very best possible for their families. Historically, Latinos have filled undesirable jobs and have steadily contributed to local, state, and national economies. The qualities that Latinos share, including their devout Christianity have been the qualities looked for in perspective citizens. Latinos are a group that ought to be embraced as they preserve and make America a stronger nation. These folks show up with their Sunday best ready to be part of a greater society; one that does not judge them based on preconceived notions, but embraces them as equals in terms of human worth.