Photo of the Dayton skyline courtesy of Wikimedia.
Lucy Waskiewicz | Contributing Writer
From descriptions of vibrant cultural dances to comprehensive lessons on breaking Latino stereotypes, Dayton’s Puerto Rican, American and Caribbean Organization is full of resources for Daytonians looking to expand their knowledge of Hispanic culture.
The organization, which generally goes by its acronym of PACO, is a Dayton-based nonprofit dedicated to the well-being and success of the Hispanic community. For over 30 years, PACO’s goals have included promoting Hispanic culture in the city of Dayton and providing the local Hispanic community with resources like housing, education and interpretation services.
President Karla Knox emphasized the importance of organizations like PACO in building a structure of solidarity and support among local Hispanic communities.
“These organizations give Hispanics a space to develop a sense of community, especially for newer immigrants,” Knox said. “Imagine being a new immigrant having to adjust to not just a new city, but a new language, food, customs etc. Having an established Hispanic organization in your new city can help with some of this adjustment period.”
Knox also highlighted PACO’s mission to educate non-Hispanic communities on the beauty and richness of Hispanic culture, as well as the positive contributions of Hispanic individuals to the city of Dayton and the United States as a whole.
This mission and the arrival of Hispanic Heritage month culminated on Sept. 17 in PACO’s biggest event of the year— the Hispanic Heritage Festival at Riverscape Metropark.
The free festivities boasted Hispanic food vendors, dance lessons, cultural exhibitions, live Hispanic musical performances and the Dayton Hispanic Heritage Parade.
One tent at the festival was occupied by the University of Dayton’s very own El Orgullo Latino, a student-run organization that represents the Hispanic community on campus. El Orgullo Latino shared information about UD’s Latinx community with festival attendees at their tent and marched in the Hispanic Heritage Parade.
President and UD senior, Yamilet Perez Aragon, stressed the importance of communities like El Orgullo Latino and PACO, especially on a predominantly white campus like UD that can fall short in supporting the needs of its multiethnic students.
“Organizations like these are a place for students to find the support they can’t find elsewhere,” Aragon said. “They create a safe place for Latinos far away from the communities of their upbringing. There is also a higher level of comfort when you are around people you know you share more in common with, so Latinos in these groups can allow themselves more vulnerability to ask questions and seek help.”
El Orgullo Latino also previously collaborated with PACO by assisting in the organization and distribution of over 100 Thanksgiving food baskets for Hispanic families, one of PACO’s multiple annual outreach efforts.
Other efforts include providing toys for children during Three Kings Day, a holiday celebrated widely in Spanish-speaking countries, and funding college scholarships for local Hispanic students. Last year, PACO awarded $7,500 in scholarships to college-bound Hispanic students through the Dayton Foundation. Knox singled out this endeavor as being at the current forefront of PACO’s efforts.
“Access to higher education is an issue that continues to disproportionately affect Hispanics,” Knox said. “We feel that making higher education more affordable is the best way PACO can positively impact the future of Hispanic Americans.”
More on PACO and their outreach efforts, as well as information on Hispanic culture, can be found on the organization’s website. You can find out more about El Orgullo Latino on their 1850 website, or on their Instagram– @eol_ud.