Festival celebrates 22 American nations | PostIndependent.com

Festival celebrates 22 American nations

Ivy Vogel
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson W/ IV STORY Gladys Martinez Augello, left, throws the ball trying to dunk Vanessa Murillo, 13, into the cold water. The dunk tank helped raise money for the Glenwood Springs Latino Club.

CARBONDALE – After a moment of silence in remembrance of 9/11, 22 children held up flags representing 22 different nations extending from Canada to South America.The children, along with their parents and a variety of other people throughout the valley, celebrated the broad range of cultures that extend from the Northern tip of North America to the Southern tip of South America at the second annual Festival las Americas.”Because we got the park on Sept. 11, we have to recognize that day,” said Diana Sanchez of Silt, one of the festival organizers whose family is from Mexico. “At the same time, we’re celebrating the independence days of several Central and South American countries.” The Festival Las Americas was started by Jackie Morales, a Peruvian woman who, in 1993, directed Asistencia Para Latinos, a nonprofit organization to help Latinos with employment, leadership, health services and documentation.

Morales lost her battle with breast cancer in 1995, and the Festival las Americanas celebrations halted until 2003. At Sopris Park, several people from all different backgrounds – Anglos, Mexicans, El Salvadorians, Spaniards – celebrated Morales’ popular saying, ‘Si, se puede’ (yes, you can) by participating in traditional Mexican dances and eating a variety of authentic food.After resisting her heritage so she could fit in better with American culture, Morales adopted “Si, se puede” to prove to herself and others that it is possible to live in harmony with a new culture while still respecting and recognizing where you’re from.At the beginning of the festival, two young Latino boys had a conversation that reinforced what Morales wanted to get rid of: Cultural monotony.After listening to mariachi music played over the loudspeaker, one of the boys said, “I can’t stand listening to this stuff.”

No one else at the Festival seemed to have any trouble fusing Mexican, Anglo, South American and Central American cultures.Watching the children – from elementary school through high school – switch from speaking English to Spanish without batting an eye was fascinating to listen to.Most food booths were run by the whole family. At a torta stand – tortas are delicious and look like gigantic hamburger buns cover with a thin layer of beans and then filled with seasoned chicken or beef – a woman stood over a hot stove and made the tortas two at a time. Her husband ran around filling drinks and doing odds and ends and their teenage daughter took care of customers. Flawlessly, she communicated just as well with her English-speaking customers as she did her Spanish-speaking customers.During the summer, there are an abundance of festivals in the valley and after a while, they all seem to look the same.

The smell of the food, the buzz of conversation in Spanish, mariachi music and bright colors separated the Festival las Americas from all the other festivals. Any proceeds from the festival will go to the Club Rotario, Roaring Fork Colorado and will be used for scholarships and other programs to help Latinos succeed.Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.com

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