Hispanic exhibit highlights Peruvian migration

Exhibit spotlights Peruvian migration to the Garden State
THE STAR-LEDGER, September 20, 2009

It was a commercial for a Peruvian telephone company on Spanish-language television that underscored to Guillermo Callegari that his adopted home state -- New Jersey -- was the world hub for his fellow expatriates.

"The commercial showed a person speaking to someone on the phone. It featured a call between Paterson and Peru," said Callegari, 78, who settled in Paterson in 1962.

"It delighted me to no end when I saw that commercial. The company wanted to promote their service between Peru and the United States, and they realized that Paterson and New Jersey were the places to zero in on."

In a nod to New Jersey's Peruvian-American community, the third-largest in the United States, the Newark Public Library is spotlighting the ethnic group in its celebration this year of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The library is offering an exhibit that features dozens of items about Peruvian migration to New Jersey, as well as a variety of objects -- including Peruvian crafts, literature and photos -- relating to the history and culture of Peru.

The exhibit, called "A Journey from Ancient Times: Peruvians in New Jersey," will be on view until Dec. 31.

"About nine years ago, we decided to dedicate our Hispanic Heritage Month celebration every other year to a particular nationality," said the exhibit's curator, Ingrid Betancourt. "We found that the public was not aware of the rich diversity within the Latino community. To many people, Latinos were basically Puerto Ricans or Mexicans, and Latino food was just tacos."

So Betancourt and others affiliated with the library decided to focus on a chosen ethnic group's native country, as well as the story of what brought that group to New Jersey and the evolution of their community here.

For many Peruvians, it was the textile work that then abounded in Paterson that first attracted them in the 1950s and 1960s, said Roberto Bustamante, a Rutherford resident who helped acquire items for the exhibit.

"Textile work was big in Peru ... so many people already had the knowledge of how to do the job," he said.

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