The Hispanic Writers Week project is a product of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences Reading Series at UMass Boston, a project initiated in 1987 that has brought to Boston some of the leading writers in the continental United States, South and Central America, Europe and Vietnam. The series was created to foster and promote dialogue and discourse on the origins and consequences of war and violence in the global community.

In 1993, what was then the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences (it was renamed the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences in July 2013) created the HISPANIC WRITERS WORKSHOP, aimed at involving members of the Latino community in the center's series and activities. The Hispanic Workshop began as a two-day event, consisting of a Friday night reading in Jamaica Plain for the Latino community and an all-day workshop on Saturday, highlighted by a morning panel on issues of language, culture, identity and forms of literary expression.

Faculty for the workshops was selected from a list of accomplished writers and included acclaimed authors like Martín Espada, Demetria Martínez, Leroy Quintana, Tino Villanueva, Margorie Agosin, Alan West, Jack Agüeros, Naomi Ayala, Claribel Alegría, Rosario Ferre, Yrene Santos, Charlie Trujillo, Daisy Zamora, and others.

The HISPANIC WRITERS IN THE SCHOOLS program drew on this experience and developed into a separate event supported by the Joiner and Boston Public Schools. The HWW project received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1995, which helped to formally establish the program and to attract writers like John Balaban, Leroy Quintana, Marilyn Nelson and Carl Phillips, among others.

In 1997, the program was expanded to include activities at UMass Boston for the more than 100 participating Latino students. The curriculum of the program was developed in collaboration with the Talented and Gifted Latino (TAG) Program, Project ALERTA, the School-to-Career Program of the Boston Schools, the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, as well as the Latino Parents Association.

In 1998, the program was expanded again, to include week-long workshops offered by visiting writers in middle and high school classes. In collaboration with Project ALERTA, the Hispanic Writers Week initiative was introduced to elementary schools. Over the next ten years, visiting writers conducted workshops in public schools in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea and Lynn, increasing the number of students served from 300 to over 850 students annually.

In March of 2008, due to the retirement of the founder of the program from his position at the Joiner and historical close ties to programs at the ILT, the operational responsibilities of the program were transferred to the Institute for Leaning and Teaching.

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