Festival showcases Latin culture | PostIndependent.com

Festival showcases Latin culture

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO ColoradoTrina Ortega Valley Journal
The band Impact Show got the early evening dancing
Valley Journal Trina Ortega

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” After months of summer festivals and celebrations in this valley, what makes Elizabeth Ruiz so excited about this one?

In her words, the Festival of the Americas has “different flair” than all the rest.

And that would be a Latin one.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to do community integration, a family event and showcase our local talent, and just experience different types of food,” she said.

By “we,” she means Club Rotario Roaring Fork, the only bilingual Rotary Club around. The group took the festival on five years ago, after founding group Latinos Unidos disbanded. Ever since, the day of Hispanic music, food and culture in Sopris Park has been the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Money raised goes toward scholorships for students attending Colorado Mountain College.

While Ruiz, the club’s former president, isn’t sure exactly how many people will attend, she knows it always attracts a great mixture of folks, hispanic and anglo and otherwise. This time around, there should be 20-30 food, gift and social service booths, as well as nine musical acts. Every year, she sees the community supporting this celebration. And that’s touching.

“We have a lot of people who put their heart into this festival,” she said.

Glenwood’s Manuel Martinez is one. The percussinist and second vocalist for Salvajes de la Sierra has played with his band at every one of these festivals since the beginning. They do it for free ” just like the rest of the musicians.

“We’re happy to do it,” he said.

He described the day, when people are dancing and requesting multiple encores from his band. To him, for those few hours everyone looks like “brothers.”

“It’s important for all the Hispanic people to show up, like Central Americans, Guatamalans, Hundurans, El Salvadorians, Niguraguans, and the white people, too,” he said. “So we can all be there.”

That would be all the better for Lalo Quintero, owner of Valley Meats. Every festival, he likes getting to meet people from all parts of Latin America around his booth. Some are eating, others just kicking back. And many became his new customers.

“It’s important for the community,” he said.

A few beats after, he added, “You don’t believe how busy I am.”

Marisa Bartnik likes to hear those kind of words. The current Rotario president has been helping design this day for eight months. Needless to say, she’s pretty vested in keeping this thing popular and fun. This is about integration, she explained. This is about trying to bring people together, showing them what altruistic deeds her club is behind.

Along with all the food and fun, a big part of the day is presenting the Jackie Morales Awards of Distinction. Given every year to those who have made a difference in the community, they’re in honor of the late Morales, who was instrumental in getting this festival off the ground. She was trying to create a positive change for Latinos in the area. Bartnik understands that responsibility now rests with her and her crew.

“We’re Rotarians at heart,” she said. “We do good things for people.”

But does the annual effort really make a difference?

Ruiz conceded she doesn’t know. This is only one day, she explained, and there’s no way it can smooth over all the issues for Hispanics around here.

Still, she always enjoys the big melting pot of a party.

“You don’t know how many Latinos are in the valley, but I expect them all to be there,” she said, with a tone of joyful authority.

Like every year, there’s no way she’d miss this.

Contact Stina Siege: 384-9111


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