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Celebrating culture at the Latin-Hispanic heritage festival

Los+Trovadores+De+La+Costa+played+music+during+the+Latin-Hispanic+Heritage+Festival+Oct.+6%2C+2023.
Jenna Guzman
Los Trovadores De La Costa played music during the Latin-Hispanic Heritage Festival Oct. 6, 2023.

The sun shone brightly on Sanford Mall, highlighting the music, food and family that came together to celebrate the Latin-Hispanic Heritage Festival, hosted by the Latin-Hispanic Alliance.  

Student and community organizations set up tents with different activities and resources for attendees, including the Immigrant Justice Coalition; Oasis, which provides assistance to those experiencing domestic abuse; Chi Upsilon Sigma, the National Latin Sorority and more.

Freshman psychology major Julian Lopez reps the Puerto Rican flag on his cheek. Volunteers at the event painted flags that represented attendee’s cultures. (Jenna Guzman )

There was also a table with Latin-Hispanic food and drinks, games for attendees to play and performances by community members and students entertaining at the festival with Latin-Hispanic music and dances. 

Some of the games included cornhole and pinatas. There was a large turnout of attendees who celebrated during the length of the event, which ran from 4-7 p.m. Chi Upsilon hosted a table where attendees could paint tote bags with their country’s flag, and the food table was incredibly popular, featuring Latin-Hispanic dishes.

“Connecting to the people who came before me is really important,” said Audrey Gay, a senior residence assistant at App State. “I feel like culture is also a way to connect with other people and to be able to share culture with other people, which is a really good way to bring more people into your community and your circle.” 

One of the tents, the Immigrant Justice Coalition, is a local, non-profit organization focused on aiding immigration-affected people in the High Country. The coalition provides emergency funds to those who need it. They also help fund cultural programs at Watauga County high schools.

The coalition holds a Faith Action ID Drive, which provides valid forms of identification for those who do not have an ID. They partner with local law enforcement so it is validated, and work with App Health and Lifestore Bank so that people with ID can open bank accounts and receive healthcare.

  “My culture means reconnecting with my roots, especially since my family came here in the 70s from Puerto Rico,” said Christian Rivera, an employee with the Immigrant Justice Coalition. “It’s connecting to the music, the food, the culture, the traditions and the little nuances you might not realize are a part of your culture that will make you part of Latino culture.”

For many, music is the great bridge between cultures. After concluding each song, the band Los Trovadores De La Costa would call out Latin American and Hispanic countries, and attendees who identified with each country cheered with each other for their country of origin.

“My culture is everything to me. It’s the language I speak, it’s the food I eat, it’s the music I listen to, it’s me,” said Thays Costa, president of Chi Upsilon Sigma. 

Many attendees identified themselves with multiple cultures and said it is difficult to grapple with belonging in both American and Latin-American cultures.

Yelisa Levia, an Oasis employee said that the difference between her identity in high school and college was stark, as most of her friends in high school were Hispanic and spoke Spanish. In contrast, in college her friend group was a blend of Hispanic and other cultures.

The Student American Indian Movement opened the festival with a land acknowledgment. Following this, Hugo Rios-Pineda (right), president of LHA, made a speech giving thanks to volunteers and everyone in attendance. (Jenna Guzman)

“It’s really just embracing the fact that I’m from both places, and that might be difficult sometimes, but it’s helpful to remember that there are other people who have that same blend of identities,” Levia said. 

Oasis, which provides legal assistance, child services and counseling services to those struggling with domestic or sexual violence. Their focus is empowerment and working with survivors to figure out the best way forward. They serve both Watauga and Avery counties and have an English and Spanish hotline. 

“When you’re born in America as a Latin-Hispanic American, you have to live within both worlds,” Levia said. “Really, it’s about music and dancing. It’s full of energy and life.” 

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About the Contributors
Meg Frantz
Meg Frantz, Reporter
Meg Frantz (she/her) is a freshman digital journalism major, with a double minor in political science and criminal justice, from Charlotte, NC. This is her first year writing for The Appalachian.
Jenna Guzman
Jenna Guzman, Editor-in-Chief
Jenna Guzman (she/her) is a junior journalism and public relations double major with a media studies minor. This is her third year working for The Appalachian.
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