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.
Latino Population: 77,433
Percentage Change Since 2000: 31.85%
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.
Latino Population: 5,331
Percentage Change: 107.43%
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.
Latino Population: 12,803
Percentage Change: 152.33%
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.
Des Moines, Iowa
Latino Population: 24,334
Percentage Change: 85.22%
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.