UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Gastón Institute Empowers the Latino Community

The Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, tucked away on the eleventh floor of the Healey Library, is further-reaching than might be assumed from first glance. This quiet office space turns out research on the Massachusetts Latino community that not only makes legislators aware of the community’s issues, but also empowers the Latino community by providing them with information and analysis that they can use to facilitate social change on their own.

The institute, established in 1989 through the efforts of Latino community activists and academicians who wanted to raise political awareness of Latino experiences and living conditions in Massachusetts, has recently strengthened its ranks by hiring a new Outreach Coordinator, Ms. Gissell Abreu-Rodriguez. In this position, Abreu-Rodriguez is responsible for ensuring that results from the institute’s projects and studies are effectively used, and to function as a liaison between the community and the Institute.

Abreu-Rodriguez, a UMass Boston alumnus, identified her primary goal, “To establish collaboration between campus student centers, faculty, and the Latino community. It is important to establish a close relationship because we are all working in different directions to achieve the same goal. That goal is to make the university aware of the Latino experience and our issues in order to improve the quality of services the school provides.”

The Gastón Institute’s latest newsletter reflects its focus on Massachusetts current events and politics. In sync with the recent release of MCAS results, the newsletter is heavily loaded with information from studies on state education and its impact on Hispanic students. Gastón Institute researchers’ education studies have ranged from “Few Latinos Prepared for MCAS” to “Interrupting the Race-Gender Gap in Education for Latinos in Massachusetts.” The newsletter also examines the most recent census data and highlights a study of predatory lenders targeting Latino communities.

Pamphlets on other information relevant to those interested in learning more about the Massachusetts Hispanic community are also available in the Gastón Institute. Some of the information reflecting the political nature of the institute that is available in this format is “Latino Electoral Campaigns in Massachusetts: The Impact of Gender,” “Latino Health Policy Symposium,” and a Directory of Latino Candidates in Massachusetts: 1968-1994.”

Abreu-Rodriguez explained, “If we are trying to work on an issue, it is important to be integrated and in touch with the community.” One way that the institute becomes in touch with the community is by offering fact sheets on various issues and addressing basic issues people might have. One informational sheet available in the institute discusses “Twenty of the Most Frequently Asked Questions about the Latino Community,” bridging cultural gaps by explaining facts about the Hispanic community as basic as “Do most Latinos who speak Spanish also speak English?”

Those interested in learning more about the Massachusetts Latino community’s issues can do so by attending a series of lectures sponsored by the Gastón Institute. The next will be held on November 20 from 1:00-2:30, when Latino politics in Massachusetts will be discussed on the eleventh floor of the Healey Library.