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Festival highlighted Latino culture

Elisa Calel-Anjanel and Silvia Sica-Mejia of Tienda La Fe gave away samples of traditional Latino baked goods at the Latino Festival, hosted by Kent State Tuscarawas.

Scott Daniels

The success of the first Latino Festival, held at Kent State University Tuscarawas on Saturday, Oct. 7, means the day will see a return engagement annually for years to come.
The event, held at Founder’s Hall, saw food catered by El Papa's Mexican restaurant in Dover, displays by the Tuscarawas County Library and Dover Public Library, and tables by a Latino youth group and a local tienda, among others. Several hundred visitors attended.
Jeff Bray of Latino Cultural Connections in New Philadelphia said the festival came together in less than a month.
“It is a co-project of Kent State and Latino Cultural Connections,” he said. “We tried to bring in several community organizations, and we’re actually surprised at the great turnout.”
The film “Ixcanul” (pronounced Ish-Kanool) was shown at noon. “It’s about a 16-year-old girl in Guatemala,” Bray said. “It takes a look at what life is like for her there.”
He said the film is available on Netflix.
Local artist Patricia Albrecht designed artwork sketched out on two canvasses. Visitors were invited to pick up a brush and fill in parts of the paintings. One of the versions was to be displayed at the university campus.
“They’re about heritage, home and community,” she said. “As people paint a little section, I hope it helps bring people together. I’m all about art and what it can do in the community,” she said.
The festival featured games, a bake sale to raise funds for hurricane relief and a bounce house for children.
Tienda La Fe Mexican store and bakery, located at 401 W. Third St. in Dover, offered free samples of a wide variety of Mexican cakes at a small table at the festival. Silvia Sica-Mejia said the tienda offers fresh-made cakes along with many other things at the store.
Alexandra Sica-Mejia and Andrea Sica-Mejia sat at the table for the Latino youth mentoring organization. “We do charity events and volunteering. We think of things we want to do to help others and visit people who may have been victims of abuse,” Andrea Sica-Mejia said.
Cherie Bronkar of Kent State University said, “Jeff Bray came to speak here about the area Latino population, and we felt that a community festival would be a good next step. We’re hoping to bring the community together and help understand each other a little better. What Jeff had to say was really helpful and enabled us to understand so much we didn’t know before.”
Kent State Tuscarawas Dean Dr. Bradley Bielski said the festival would be an annual event. “Absolutely,” he said. “We will do this again and again. We hope it helps bring light to reason and helps people learn a little more about the challenges and uniqueness of the local Latino population. When Jeff Bray spoke here, it really brought a lot of understanding to both students and faculty.”
Bielski said he was pleased with the turnout. “Since it’s the first one, we really didn’t know what to expect. But this has been fantastic.”
“We have had an Italian Festival here in the area,” Bray said, “and of course lots of things celebrating German heritage. We want this to be celebratory and hope things like this festival can help teach people a little and overcome the unknown. The Latino population here is very unique and has an interesting culture and backstory.”
To learn more or to inquire about having a speaker on the area Latino immigrants for your group, email Latino Cultural Connections at info@latino-cc.org">info@latino-cc.org. The website is at www.tclaamistad.org.

Published: October 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171019987