'Unity Builds Community' Latino Festival has large turnout

The second annual Latino Festival was held in River Park Square Saturday. Norma Rodriguez was pleased with the turnout. “It is a great turn out from our community.” Dancers, ‘Carnival’ performers, and representatives of ‘Futeboleros Soccer Entertainers’ contributed to an evening of family, music, food and fun in festive celebration of Latino culture in Marshall County.
Jamie Stoner
Staff Writer

Latino Festival 2018 launched ‘Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month’ which runs from September 15 to October 15. Event coordinator Norma Rodriguez shared, “It was not intentional for us to hold the event in conjunction with the first day of ‘Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month’, it just worked out that way.” she said with a smile.

Rodriguez humbly declined to take sole credit for organizing the event, “We worked as a team.” Rodriguez shared that one of the highlights of this year’s festival was the ‘Futeboleros Soccer Entertainers’. Rodriquez shared, “They are like the Harlem Globetrotters of soccer.”

Reenkuentro 334 provided live musical entertainment, there were ‘Carnival’ performers dressed up in ornate costumes, and dancers in bright dresses dancing for families and friends who came to celebrate the evening together. Vendors filled the back part of River Park Square providing a seemingly endless buffet of authentic meal options. Children laughed with delight as they took turns attempting to strike the Piñata and revel in the explosion of candy and small toys.

Intricately detailed sculptures and religious themed wall decor were displayed on the lawn and sidewalk of RPS converting it into a museum of art and culture Saturday evening. Festival goers walked respectfully past the images, some even taking the time to reach down and touch the face of the sculpted replica of Jesus, The Lady of Guadalupe or the Infant of Prague. Rosaries, crucifixes, and jewelry highlighted the value that is traditionally placed on spirituality.

Representatives of ‘La Voz Unida’ (which translates to ‘United Voice’ in English) were present at one of the information booths Saturday evening. In addition to assisting those interested in voter registration, LVU promotes four ideals; education by ‘converting hearts and minds towards immigrants’, advocate by ‘seeking justice for immigrants’, empower by ‘transforming communities through immigrant leadership’, and accompany by ‘walking with our immigrant brothers and sisters’.

Rodriguez shared that the organization has diverse members including pastors and school teachers. Rodriguez entreated, “We want to to be an educational resource for the whole community. We are here to help everyone gain better understanding of each other’s cultures.”

Plymouth Adult Education (PAE) was present passing out literature regarding free English as a second language (ESL) classes and citizenship classes offered free. The classes take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. More information can be obtained by calling 574-936-7268 or 574-780-6334. PAE is also looking for volunteers to tutor the ESL and citizenship classes. Those interested are encouraged to email Deb Sherwood at dsherwood@plymouth.k12.in.us.

The theme for the event was ‘Unity Builds Community’. Over 20 organizations sponsored or were present at the event to celebrate the rich Latino heritage so present in the community. Families played ‘futbol’, children released red, white and blue balloons into the sky and watched them disappear, and grandparents wrapped their arms around their grandchildren.

Rodriguez was happy with the response from Marshall County. It was the second year for the Marshall County Latino Festival. Rodriguez noted, “There was another Latino Festival held in South Bend tonight, but so many people stayed to attend ours. It is a great turnout from our community.”

Plymouth Latino Fest 2018 was sponsored by First Federal Savings Bank, LaSalle Bristol, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Roth Wehrly Graber Agent Ed Rodriguez, Marshall County Recycle Depot, Jaime’s Grocery, Marshall County Democratic Party, The Center at Donaldson, La Voz Unida, CTE Solutions, Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, United Way, Marshall County Community Foundation, Merino Law Firm, Bowen Printing, Shade Master Window Tint, Yolanda’s, North Interweb, Hoosier Racing Tire, and Marshall County Tourism.