Gabriela Mistral Campus Opens in Corona

Carmen Fariña, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. (Photo by Mauricio Hernández via Queens Latino)

Carmen Fariña, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. (Photo by Mauricio Hernández via Queens Latino)

After two years of hard work, the Gabriela Mistral Campus was inaugurated this week in Corona, Queens, named in honor of the great Chilean poet. She was the voice of Latin America throughout the 20th century, and is the only Latin American woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature. Mistral lived in New York the last four years of her life, and wrote poems in Spanish and English.

The theater inside the Gabriela Mistral Campus, the spacious building erected in honor of the Chilean Nobel laureate, gave out an air of poetry, art and the future.

“It is a pleasure to be here with you today. The construction department has made this wonderful building with the name of Gabriela Mistral. I invite you to learn the English language here,” said Carmen Fariña, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, as she inaugurated the Gabriela Mistral Campus in Corona, in the 24th District, where the majority of the Chilean community in New York resides.

Chancellor Fariña said: “We knew the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, who learned to write in English and Spanish. I want to take this time to thank the Foundation for the initiative to create a campus with the name of this great poet.”

The event was attended by representatives of the city and the Gabriela Mistral Foundation, politicians, academics, entrepreneurs and diplomats. Some 100 teenage students were also at the event, both in English (“Tiny Feet” [named after a Mistral poem]) and in Spanish (“Piececitos”).

Beth Hert, founding principal of the Corona Arts and Sciences Academy, was the keynote speaker. “We thank the 15 members of the school authorities and the construction authorities for giving us this beautiful stage where we will be able to teach and learn,” she said.

Milady Báez, deputy chancellor of the DOE’s Department of English Language Learners and Student Support, said that “today is a very happy day and a very special morning because of the inauguration of these new facilities in honor of the poet of freedom, who was an inspiration to all of Latin America. Today is a dream come true.”

Francisco del Campo, consul general of Chile in New York, said: “It’s an honor and a pleasure to participate in this ceremony. For Chile, Gabriela Mistral is one of the most important women of all time. It is with immense gratitude that we receive this campus, which has been baptized with the name of the only woman in Latin America to receive a Nobel Prize in literature. She started out teaching at Chile’s schools in 1922. This campus will feed the spirit of this community and serve as inspiration for these students.”

Gloria Garafulich-Grabois, president of the Gabriela Mistral Foundation, thanked the city in the name of her organization’s board of directors. “New York was of great importance to Gabriela Mistral: It offered her an intellectual home. Here is where she wrote the famous appeal that served as the starting point for the UNICEF foundation. The poet was a bridge between the north and the south.”

“All the children in the world learn to dream of the future. For two years we worked on the project, from the moment the chancellor presented it to the city of New York in December 2014. Today is a special day for Santiago and New York, 60 years after the death of this great poet and educator. The goal is to continue education into the future.”

Assemblymember Francisco Moya, vice president of operations of Banco de Estado de Chile in New York Pedro Guzmán and representatives of the School Construction Authority were also at the event.

Closing the event was Madelene Chan, the 24th District Community Superintendent for the last eight years. “I am grateful for the honor to have this campus and for the benefits it will bring to our community. My parents taught me poetry since I was a little girl. The name Gabriela Mistral will be an inspiration. Thanks to your foundation for this great honor,” she said.

The Gabriela Mistral Campus is located at 98-11 44th Ave. in Queens, New York.

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