Celebre la familia at Hispanic Heritage Festival
When you hear the term “Hispanic Heritage Festival” do you picture a party where guests munch on tacos and whack at a piñata? Then you didn’t attend the resplendent celebration of cultures orchestrated by Irma Isaac, Youth Program Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s Tupperware Brands Branch. And Irma, one of the most joyful people you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet, will be all too happy to set you straight.
According to Irma – and she’s absolutely correct – Hispanic isn’t a monolithic heritage defined by chips & salsa and a mariachi band. Rather, it refers to the cultures of 21 separate countries whose traditions are as varied as the flavors at Baskin Robbins. They may all share a Spanish ancestry, but they have their separate musics, dances, cuisines, histories and traditions, eleven of which were on brilliant display at this year’s October festival. Over 300 people attended the event held in the Club’s gymnasium, which was decked out with decorations and displays representing Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina, Honduras, Cuba, Spain, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.
Irma plans for this to be an annual tradition at the Tupperware Brands Branch, whose membership is 85% Hispanic. But are the other 15% welcome at the Festival? Claro que sí! “They are our most honored guests,” according to Irma. “We were so happy to share our traditions with them, and I think they enjoyed the party more than anyone. Oluwanifemi , one of our African American members, learned to dance the Bachata better than most Dominicans!”
First and foremost, the festival is about giving families an event to enjoy together. “It warmed my heart to see children dancing with their parents, celebrating their cultures. It’s important for children to be proud of their family heritage,” says Irma, “and they need to see their parents embracing the culture as well.”
Parents and children brought dishes representing their native countries— arroz con gandules y pernil (rice with green peas and pork) from Puerto Rico, Dulce de Coco (a coconut dessert) from the Dominican Republic, empanadas from Venezuela, and a Tres Leches cake decorated for Uruguay.
Irma and Joel Santana, Teen Director, served as mistress and master of ceremonies, and introduced the various acts–primarily dances and songs that Club members had been practicing for two months. The entertainment also included a Traditional Fashion Show, showcasing traditional dresses from six countries, brought to America by Club families. The joy was palpable when Club member Jenni danced the Jota from Spain with her mama, and Club member Edwin danced the Salsa from Puerto Rico with his mama. Club member Rene honored his ancestry by singing a Cuban ballad, and Club father Victor Pacheco crooned “En Mi Viejo San Juan” from his native Puerto Rico. The festivities concluded with a line dance to a Gente de Zona & Marc Antony song, La Gozadera, which segued into an upbeat parade of nations with the children waving the flags of their ancestors.
The best part of the evening? “Seeing families together having fun,” says Irma. “Many of our families have parents who work two and three jobs to put food on the table. Quality family time can be a scarce commodity.”
“Esta noche fue todo sobre la familia,” Irma reflects. Tonight was all about family.
The entire gallery of photos from the Festival can be viewed here: Hispanic Heritage Festival Photos
Many thanks to Tupperware Brands for underwriting catering for this event and to the Boys & Girls Clubs Tupperware Brands Branch Staff, Parents, and Members.