Rhythms of salsa, merengue and reggaeton echoed along the banks of the Scioto River as the first day of the Latino Festival began Saturday at Genoa Park near COSI Columbus.
The variety of music, food and other vendors made it clear that the Latino community in Columbus is so much more than Mexico, but represents people who come from many countries and come together for this popular cultural event with free admission. .
Cat Ramos, 31, sat in the shade of a tent selling her paintings inspired by indigenous Mexican traditions. The Columbus-based artist said his pieces, like the one titled “Viva y Muerte” (Life and Death), are inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition ( Dia de los Muertos) and his own experience of grieving his brother, who died a few years ago.
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“A lot of people think every Hispanic person is Mexican,” Ramos said. “But it’s like, nah dog, we’re so versatile. That’s what I love about Latino Fest. It’s not often you have the whole Latino community together.
Gianni Franco, 24, manned his family’s memorabilia stand, where a variety of t-shirts, hats and keychains with Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Mexican, Colombian, Venezuelan and Honduran flags were on display.
“What I love about these events is the unity,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be just a Puerto Rican festival or a Colombian festival. It’s all in one.
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For many members of Columbus’ growing Latino community, the annual Latino Festival, which began in 1996, is a chance to share the diversity of their individual cultures, as well as show unity and reunite with old friends and their family.
Greater Columbus has a Hispanic population of about 94,000, according to census figures. According to Lilleana Cavanaugh, executive director of the Ohio Commission on Latino Affairs, the region’s largest number of Latinos come from Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Colombia.
“Immigrants, migrants and refugees are the number one factor in our population growth,” said Columbus City Council member Lourdes Barroso de Padilla. “When we have the opportunity to celebrate them, showcase them, and allow them to truly elevate their culture, their language, and their people with cultural opportunities like festivals, it helps foster a sense of belonging for these communities.”
Festival food vendors prepared a variety of meals and snacks, including well-known foods like tacos and empanadas, as well as some lesser-known ones. The Adios Taco stand sold Tlayudas, a pizza-like dish from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
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In addition to being an opportunity for members of the community to come together, the Latino Festival is also a chance to share culture with people outside the community, according to Ramona Reyes, member of the event’s steering committee and director of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Center.
“Much of what people understand about immigration is what is highlighted in the news. The festival gives them the opportunity to really get to know the Latino community. Our food, our music, our people and our culture. What could be better than with music, food and fun,” she said.
Gustavo Aguilar is an on-air personality who hosts music and talk shows on La Mega 103.1 FM, including playing the role of “Filemon” – a donkey character who jokes around with listeners. Its radio hosts DJs at the festival.
“We’re more than happy to accommodate any kind of culture, even if they’re not Hispanic,” he said.
If you are going to….
When and where does the Latino Festival take place?
The free admission event continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Genoa Park, 303 W. Broad St.
What is the music program?
Sunday’s lineup will feature Columbus-based DJ Cale playing salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, Latin pop dance, house, and American Top 40 music at 11 a.m.; Daglio at 1:15 p.m.; Los Borirengues del Swing at 2:45 p.m.; Luisito Ayala and La Puerto Rican Power at 4:15 p.m.; and Elvis Martinez, who will take the stage at 6:30 p.m.
What food is available at the Latino Festival?
There will be 20 vendors at the festival, including Giant Lemonade Cup, Laguna Mexican, Komodo Loco, Si Senor Taco Mexico, and Tortilla. For a complete list, visit https://www.festivallatino.net/plan-your-visit/food-vendors/
Where can I park?
Paid parking is available at COSI Columbus, 333 W. Broad St., Columbus Commons Garage, 55 E. Rich St., and various surface lots. Bike racks will be located at each festival entrance.
Peter Gill is a member of the Report for America corps and covers immigration issues for the Dispatch. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation at https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ