Oct 052015
 
Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival

Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival

Each year, we feature Latino destinations for Hispanic Heritage Month. This year we chose to explore Latino festivals but rather than choose the largest, we’re looking at communities that get much less fanfare but also reflect the growth (according to the 2010 Census) of the Latino population across the country. It took initiative to launch these celebrations, especially in towns where the Latino population is still growing.

Since the first Latinos found themselves crossed by a border and in a land that was no longer theirs, cultural festivals served to remind them of home. Today, they serve a similar purpose but with the added mission of inviting non-Latinos to join the celebration and experience the culture via food, music, and dance, and maybe learn a little history to better appreciate the Latino next door.

Latinos in the cities and towns we’ve featured were compelled to gather together for the same purpose. We invite you to come and explore with us.

Hawaii Hispanic Heritage Festival

Honolulu, Hawaii

Population: 953,207

Latino Population: 77,433

Percentage Change Since 2000: 31.85%

Percentage: 8.12%

Eddie Ortiz and the Son Caribe Band

Eddie Ortiz and the Son Caribe Band

Latinos make up 8.88 percent of the population in Hawaii, or 120, 842, and the majority of them live in Honolulu. The Latino community in Hawaii has been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month for more than 20 years. Alma Latina Productions, led by Nancy Ortiz, returns this year with the Hawaii Hispanic Heritage Festival and Health Fair on October 10. It’s free and open to the public. With the mission of educating the community about Latinos by promoting the Latino culture, the festival includes musical and dance performances showcasing a variety of Latin genres, as well as food, games, cultural displays, crafts, and soccer and domino tournaments; it’s a veritable catchall of everything Latino. Offering an additional benefit to festivalgoers is the health fair that invites local healthcare agencies and providers to distribute information critical to Latino families.

Festival Hispanic Cultural de Easton

Easton, Pennsylvania

Population: 26,800

Latino Population: 5,331

Percentage: 19.89%

Percentage Change: 107.43%

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There are larger Latino festivals in Pennsylvania, like Hispanic Fiesta in Philadelphia or the Annual Hispanic Festival in Lancaster, but the celebration in Easton gets our pick because it’s the newest. Inspired by Mayor Salvatore Panto, the Latino community in this picturesque town in eastern Pennsylvania organized the first annual Hispanic Cultural Festival. Pinto reached out to Colombian native Lorely Sanchez to develop the festival by organizing a committee of Latino community leaders for ideas and suggestions. This year’s festival took place on August 1, featuring local vendors, children’s programming with Payaso Alverjita, a performance by Ballet Folklórico of Peru and a concert showcasing area artists representing Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico, Panama, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Planners hope to bring the festival, which is free and open to the public, back next year.

¿Qué Pasa? Festival

Richmond, Virginia

Population: 210,309

Latino Population: 12,803

Percentage: 6.27%

Percentage Change: 152.33%

Richmond Canal Walk

Richmond Canal Walk

Virginia’s Latino population has nearly doubled to 633,945, according to the 2010 US Census. Ten years ago, the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce created the ¿Qué Pasa? Festival to highlight the state’s diversity and international melting pot. Held May 2, this year’s celebration attracted an estimated 15,000 participants and included transforming the Richmond Canal Walk into the famous Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, Mexico, with boats offering free rides to festival goers. Latin music and performances along the Canal Walk greeted the masses who also sampled Latino food, beverages and dazzling arts and crafts. A dynamic mixture of sights, sounds and tastes, the ¿Qué Pasa? Festival invites each participant to fully engage with Richmond’s Latino community.

http://www.quepasafestival.com/

 

Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival

Des Moines, Iowa

Population: 203,433

Latino Population: 24,334

Percentage: 12%

Percentage Change: 85.22%

iowa.1

Attracting nearly 50,000 people annually, Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival has become the one of the state’s most widely attended cultural events for the past eleven years. Presented by Latino Resources, Inc. a non-profit organization, it takes place this year on September 26–27. Attendees experienced the rich and varied Latin-American cultures and traditions thriving in Iowa. Band selection reflected the diversity within the Latino community.  Beautiful dancers performed traditional dances from Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Aztec dancers in traditional costumes grace the stage and thrill audiences.

There were food vendors and children’s activities that featured workshops; making crafts, breaking piñatas every hour and “Lucha Libre” demonstration.

http://www.latinoheritagefestival.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 272015
 
Corpus Christi, TX.

Corpus Christi, TX.

by Richie Bernardo

The United States is often dubbed “a nation of immigrants.” But lately the path to American citizenship has been a rough road, especially for an increasing number of Hispanics. Whether they’ve entered U.S. borders lawfully or otherwise, many have felt the sting of marginalization, racism and discrimination in every kind of social environment. And despite the unfriendly welcome, they’re as motivated as ever to put down roots in American soil in order to find better opportunities and improve their lives.

Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

For Hispanics who’ve successfully integrated into American society, they also have managed to contribute significantly to the economy. Their collective impact is reflected in the growing quantity of Hispanic-owned businesses in the country, which stood at 3.1 million in 2013. Together, they hauled in an estimated $486 billion in revenue, as reported by Geoscape and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). Even the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. bestow net positive gains on the national economy over time.

Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville, FL

Equally as impressive, Hispanics opened businesses — many owned by self-employed individuals — at a rate more than twice the national average of 18 percent between 2002 and 2007, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures. Today, Hispanics and Latinos constitute the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. And by 2050, they could make up a third of the country’s population, quickly becoming what USHCC President and CEO Javier Palomarez appropriately described as “America’s business future.”

Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge, LA

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month beginning Sept. 15, WalletHub assessed the minority business climate within the 150 largest U.S. cities. We did so by examining 19 key metrics such as Hispanic entrepreneurship rates, corporate tax systems and the share of businesses owned by Hispanics. With the findings of this study, WalletHub aims to help aspiring Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs find the most fertile ground from which to grow their enterprises.

The top ten cities for Latino entrepreneurs are:

1. Pembroke Pines, FL
2. Corpus Christi, TX3. Laredo, TX
4. Gilbert Town, AZ
5. Rancho Cucamonga, CA
6. Jacksonville, FL
7. El Paso, TX
8. St. Petersburg, FL
9. Baton Rouge, LA
10. Chandler, AZ

For the full list of 150 cities and more detailed information go to WalletHub: http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-hispanic-entrepreneurs/6491/

Jul 162015
 
Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle.

At first glance, a green travel adventure would suggest a getaway to a tropical paradise, away from civilization and surrounded by natural beauty. While admiring nature, however, do you ever wonder if the hotel you’re staying at has adopted green protocols for waste disposal, energy conservation, or recycling?

Would you feel better if it did?

We’ve chosen three destinations that combine natural beauty with green activities and properties that will satisfy eco-friendly urges to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

 

Statue of Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis.

Statue of Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis, MN

It’s been more than 40 years since Minneapolis was featured as the hometown to the beloved Mary Richards, WJN television producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Today, the city may be more famous as the home of the Mall of America (MOA), or Target but it’s also the largest city in a state that’s known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” so how can it not appeal to nature lovers?

Nickelodeon Univers amusement park in the Mall of America.

Nickelodeon Universe amusement park in the Mall of America.

Well, it does get cold in Minneapolis but the fall and spring are lovely times to visit and escape the heat in other states.

For starters, Minneapolis has 197 park properties. They include a 13.3-mile path for biking, walking, and running, encircling the entire Chain of Lakes parkway. There are 50 miles of paved trails that showcase lakes, parks, gardens, historical sites, beaches, golf courses, and diverse Minneapolis neighborhoods. The Grand Rounds, National Scenic Byways, composed of seven districts, creates a 50-mile loop around the city.

Midtown Global Market.

Midtown Global Market.

Fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show might like to visit the Lake of Isles to see the carriage house where Mary’s apartment was supposedly located and where she can be seen in opening credits walking along the lake. There’s also the exterior sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center or the Science Museum to learn more about how the Earth functions.

With a growing Latino community, Minneapolis also offers a Latino district in Midtown with more than one mercado and authentic Mexican food restaurants.

Power shoppers, however will find the MOA, the largest indoor shopping mall in the country, irresistible, but don’t let green concerns stop you because the mall is greener than expected.

MOA does not use a central heating system; instead, it maintains a 70-degree temperature year-round with passive solar energy from 1.2 miles of skylights and heat generated from store fixtures and lighting and the body heat from more than 40 million visitors. MOA recycles more than 60 percent of its waste—an average of 32,000 tons per year or the equivalent of more than 18,000 cars in a landfill. It also recycles more than 2,400 tons of food waste to a local hog farm.

Property

Radisson Blu Mall of America lobby.

Radisson Blu

There are only four Blu properties in the Radisson family, and two of them are in Minneapolis,  downtown and  at the MOA.

Beautifully accented inside by the work of interior designer Jim Hamilton and local artists, the Blu’s green focus includes reclaimed local wood used in the floor, walls, and furniture of the Firelake Lounge—all food waste is also recycled to area pig farms—triple-pane windows conserve energy as do LED lighting in 90 percent of the hotel and auto on-off switches in the rooms.

Attached to the MOA like a casino, the hotel also offers shuttle rides to the airport.

Portland-Photo by Larry Geddis

Portland, OR

A list of green destinations isn’t complete without one of the greenest in the country, Portland. Perhaps the great Northwest, with its majestic forests, mountains, and coastal views inspires residents to keep the smog clouds away, but whatever the reason, the city, and state for that matter, take pride in their eco-friendliness.

We encourage the boldest of eco-travelers to head west and take an emission- and gasoline-free road trip to enjoy the scenery. Working with Nissan and Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Travel Oregon has constructed multiple routes that include free charging stations to accommodate electric vehicles (EVs).

An early EV adopter, Portland has invested in an infrastructure to support them with free charging stations around town beginning with a hub located near Portland State University on Electric Avenue.Electric_Avenue

Other perks include no state sales tax, four National Historic Trails, fourteen National Historic Districts, and more than 750 vineyards in Oregon producing more than 70 different varietals of wine grapes.

All of the above can be accessed in an EV thanks to the charging station infrastructure along state highways. Home to more than 225 wineries, the Willamette Valley stretches for more than a 100 miles along Highway 99 West. A short drive from Portland, it has many charging stations along the way.

Visit the state’s most picturesque mountain, Fort Hood, and view the Columbia River Gorge along the way on Interstate 84 without contributing any emissions.

Families can head out along Interstate 5 to visit several highway stops with family attractions like the Enchanted Forest, “a magical place of cottages and gingerbread houses nestled on the side of a mountain,” or A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, a riverfront park.

Back in Portland you can visit the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Saturday Market to find a hand crafted souvenir, and the Portland Art Museum.

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Property

The best time to charge an EV is overnight so it only makes sense that travelers who opt for an EV road trip should stay at a hotel that makes charging stations available. The Crowne Plaza is one of two in downtown Portland with this service but you will pay to charge the vehicle. It’s also one of the first Crown Plaza properties to achieve a silver level certification from Green Seal. Additional green initiatives at the property include hotel-wide recycling, kitchen composting, an energy-efficient HVAC system, a propane fueled airport shuttle, and a bike-lending program.

 

Avila Beach

Avila Beach

San Luis Obispo County, CA

Beautiful scenery may be essential for a green vacation, but sometimes, natural wonders need to be cleaned. Strolling on the beach is nice but not when you stumble upon plastic bags, cigarette lighters, and old tires.

Eco-friendly travelers who’d like an opportunity to give back to nature will appreciate the Stewardship Travel Program offered by San Louis Obispo County.  Travelers who head west can select a variety of activities to help re-beautify WineCoast Country, the coastal region of San Luis Obispo County along the Highway 1 Discovery Route, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. With more than 70 unique activities, or ways to contribute, travelers can spend a few hours meeting elephant seals in San Simeon, planting seedlings at the Audubon Sweet Springs Nature Preserve (Los Osos/Baywood), or cleaning up Avila Beach.

Afterwards, reward yourself with whale watching, kayaking, wind surfing, visiting area state parks, aquariums, museums, or historical monuments. Many more activities are listed on the website, winecoastcountry.com including a Pacific Coast Wine Trail to savor and the Hearst Castle to explore.

During this time, local restaurants will also serve special seafood dishes that support environmentally responsible choices.

For those who can’t make the tour in February, there’s another annual beach clean up in September.

outdoor-view-of-hotel

Property

All properties along Avila Beach offer beach clean-up kits but the Avila La Fonda may offer particular appeal to Latino travelers. While modern amenities abound, the inn was constructed to emulate a nineteenth century Mexican village. Built with couples in mind, the property’s casitas include two-person Jacuzzis, thermostat controlled fireplaces, and a complimentary VIP welcome bar. Each evening offers wine tasting from local wineries with hors d’oeurves. On the green side, all wine bottles are recycled saving 200–300 bottles from the landfill. They’re sent to a local company, Glassed Over, and turned into candles. Ninety percent of hotel trash is recycled, and housekeeping uses green cleaning products. Guests also receive a reusable tote bag to comply with San Luis Obispo’s bag free ordinance.

May 072015
 
2013-04-12 10.05.09

Bishop Castle in Galveston, TX.

In Texas, we do have seasons, sorta. As fall begins to take hold, there’s still time to head to the beach for sun and fun but only one town offers even more, Galveston. This city by the bay is a survivor with old world charm, a gateway to a more romantic time in Texas history.

The city’s claim to fame was the devastation it endured at the turn of the last century. Many have borne the brunt of hurricanes but none so famously as Galveston—the 1900 hurricane remains the most damaging ever and most recently, Hurricane Ike (2008) brought an estimated $29.5 billion in damage, the third costliest hurricane in United States history.

But like all post-hurricane towns along the Gulf Coast, Galveston has rebuilt itself, with gusto. New attractions have replaced dilapidated ones, while stalwart structures received modern upgrades. Add to that Galveston’s old world charm combined with sophisticated appeal and the city offers an attractive destination for singles, couples, and families.

 

History

Moody Mansion

Moody Mansion

Galveston’s historical homes tours can begin with the oldest, the Menard House, named for the city’s founder, Michel B. Menard, and culminate with glorious Victorian mansions like the Bishop’s Castle or the Moody Mansion. The former has just upgraded to provide self-guided audio tours while the latter utilizes docent tours every hour. Having toured both, there are advantages to wandering through a house at your leisure as well as having someone on the tour who can provide additional information.

Located in the East End Historic District, the Bishop’s Castle is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is noted for its use of exotic materials—including a remarkable stained glass window along the staircase.

The Moody name can be found on buildings throughout Texas but especially in Galveston. The Moody family made its money from a financial empire that included cotton, banking, ranching, insurance and hotels—the Menger Hotel in San Antonio was a Moody hotel.

Much of the family’s belongings, from china to photographs taken by Mrs. Moody, remain, giving the house historical verity.

 

Art

While it’s considered one of the most damaging storms to hit Texas, Hurricane Ike received very few headlines. A Category 2 storm when it hit Galveston on September 13 at 2:10 a.m., Ike had winds of 110 miles per hour and produced a 22-ft storm surge. Buildings throughout Galveston have posted reminders, inside and out, of how high the water reached that day.2013-04-12 09.54.00

While the city has managed to rebuild, quite robustly, certain structures could not be saved, namely, Texas live oak trees. Salt water damaged their root systems and many died, but rather than tear them all down, homeowners in the historic East End District and beyond chose to convert them into public art, which has now also become a tourist attraction.

Whimsical structures, like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, or a siren of the sea dot the lawns of houses in this area. Local artists Dale Lewis, Earl Jones, and Jim Phillips produced the pieces. One-hundred percent of the “Iked” wood was repurposed, converted into sculptures, used to restore at least two historic ships, or carved into wooden bowls and other art pieces.

The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau issued a map of the sculptures for those who would like to tour the neighborhood on foot, while the Galveston Historical Foundation offers tours on a solar powered shuttle for $10–$15.

 

Shopping

elissaLocated in the heart of historic downtown Galveston, the Strand offers visitors blocks of shopping, eateries, art galleries, and unique attractions housed in nineteenth century buildings. These Victorian structures survived the Great Storm and Hurricane Ike (there is a water marker near the harbor that shows the level of flooding from every storm to hit the island since 1900), and were part of the city’s revitalization efforts that began in the 1980s.

At Christmas, the Strand visibly reverts to a Victorian past for the annual Dickens on the Strand event, one of the most popular annual festivals on the island.

The Strand is also conveniently located near Pier 21 at the harbor, where more attractions await. History buffs will appreciate a one-hour documentary, The Great Storm, at the Pier 21 Theater, recounting the infamous hurricane. There’s also a show dedicated to the Pirate Jean Lafitte. The Tall Ship Elissa is docked there and available for tours as is the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum.

Tourists can also book harbor boat tours that may include dolphin sightings.

 

Natural Exhibits

Named for the Moody family, the Moody Gardens were built with funding from the Moody 2013-04-13 12.07.03Foundation. Today, three glass pyramids harbor natural environments to attract children of all ages—a 1.5-million gallon aquarium, a rainforest with free roaming birds and mammals, and a discovery museum—plus a golf course, hotel, 3-D and 4-D theaters, and more. Two or one-day passes are available for $61.95 or $46.95, respectively, but travelers on a budget can purchase individual tickets to each attraction. For an additional $50, animal lovers can secure quality time with a king, rock hopper, or chin strap penguin at the aquarium. A non-profit organization, the Moody Gardens even sells paintings by these birds, which have been trained to walk on each canvas to produce a work of art. Proceeds benefit research and conservation activities at the Gardens.

 

Accommodations

Anyone can book a room with a coastal view, but for the traveler who appreciates luxury on a small scale, the recently restored Tremont House boutique hotel fits the bill.

The view from the Tremont House rooftop bar.

The view from the Tremont House rooftop bar.

George and Cynthia Mitchell acquired the architecturally lavish Leon & H. Blum Building and began its transformation into the third Tremont House. Built in 1879, the company was once the South’s premiere wholesale dry goods supplier. When the hotel opened in 1985 it was the first major hotel to open in downtown Galveston in 60 years. A catalyst for the revitalization of Galveston’s historic downtown, the 119-room Tremont House is also walking distance from the Strand.

The Mitchells also acquired another of the city’s historic properties, the Hotel Galvez. While renovations continue, the hotel celebrated its centennial in 2011. As the sister hotel to the Tremont House, guests at the latter get free access to the spa and pool located at the Galvez. While the Tremont House may be more appealing to couples, the Galvez certainly suits families. Both hotels are managed by the Wyndham Hotels.

 

Dining

Sitting inside Rudy & Paco you could imagine being in any major urban center in the country. This elegant eatery adds a South American touch to grilled seafood and steak. Chef Paco Vargas infuses flavors from his native country, Nicaragua, with traditional American faire, captured in dishes like the Filete De Pargo Simpatico (pictured, right), fresh gulf red snapper plantain encrusted, pan sautéed served with raspberry chipotle sauce and topped with lump crabmeat.

In the tradition of Latino restaurateurs, Vargas adopts a mi casa su casa approach at Rudy & Paco. He greats guests with a “Welcome home baby!” and adds drama to the dinner service with choreographed food delivery; during each course, a team of waiters

Gaido's famous pecan pie.

Gaido’s famous pecan pie.

delivers each plate to the table in perfect synchronicity. The upscale service, especially at night when shorts are not permitted, also translates into upscale prices.

Other suggested spots include Sky Bar Steak & Sushi, Sunflower Bakery & Café, Farley Girls Café featuring Chef Juan Cardona, Olympia The Grill at Pier 21, and the storied Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant.

 

Family Fun

Re-opened in 2012, the Pleasure Pier’s history actually dates back to the late 1940s when it was built as a tourist destination, similar to Coney Island. Damaged by Hurricane Carla in 1961, the Flagship Hotel was built near it. Hurricanes struck again, this time in 2008 with Hurricane Ike, damaging the hotel extensively and it was abandoned. Landry restaurant chain owner and Galveston native son, Tilman Fertitta, took over the property and began plans to rebuild the Pleasure Pier to its former glory.

Ferris wheel at the Pleasure Pier.

Ferris wheel at the Pleasure Pier.

This mini amusement park has just enough rides (16) to entertain children and their parents including a roller coaster that climbs vertically for 100 feet, a log ride that dips into the Gulf, a carousel, and a 200-ft.-tall Ferris wheel that hangs over the water. But like an amusement park, it can be pricey when food and drinks are included. Still, it is a nice place to drink a beer and look out over the water.

All-day passes run $19.99–$26.99. Individual ride tickets cost $4 but a $10 pass to enter the Pier is also required.

 

Nature

The Clapper Trail Loop (named after the abundent Clapper birds) is a well maintaned walking and biking trail with a lookout tower and two wooden bridges.

The Clapper Trail Loop (named after the abundent Clapper birds) is a well maintaned walking and biking trail with a lookout tower and two wooden bridges.

At the west end of the island is Galveston State Park, a 2,013.1-acre site that was acquired in 1969 from private owners and re-opened in 1975. A nature lover’s delight, the park welcomes wading and shore birds, mottled and mallard ducks, raccoons, armadillos, and marsh rabbits, as well as migratory birds during the spring and fall.

Four miles of nature trails, with an observation platform, boardwalks, and photo blinds, guide sightseers through a variety of coastal habitats. Visitors can also schedule an appointment with a park ranger for a personal tour of the flora and fauna.

Campers are welcome as well as fishermen. Those who don’t come with tackle can borrow from the park for up to seven days as part of the Tackle Loaner Program. A fishing license isn’t needed while within the boundaries of the park. The daily entry fee is $5 for adults.

 

Forty-five minutes from Houston, visitors are encouraged to fly into Houston Hobby Airport rather than George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Refreshed and renewed, Galveston celebrates its history while facing the future.