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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Thousands Attend Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival 2016

Cesar Gonzalez

Thousands of people attended the Hispanic Festival in Grand Rapids over the weekend. 

[Las Fenix Singing]

In case you missed it, that was a taste of one of the headline acts for the Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival this year. They’re Las Fenix, a quartet of sisters from Texas. But even though Tex-Mex is always well represented, Roberto Torres, Director of the Hispanic Center, says this year the goal is inclusion.

“We’re trying to help define the Latino Community. A lot of people when they think of Latino, they think of Mexican culture and so one thing that we wanted to do was to make sure that we have even more inclusiveness.”

Some ways they branched out included bringing a Cuban vendor from Miami and perhaps most notably, inviting Latin Grammy nominee, Uno Dos Tres Andres, from Colombia, who specializes in music for child language-learners.

Credit Mariano Avila / WGVU
Uno Dos Tres Andres at Calder Plaza for the Hispanic Festival 2016

“We do salsa, cumbia, reggae, a little bit of rock. There’s something for everybody like they say, right? But the most important thing is that we do music from our heart and music of quality. You know, we respect our listeners, our young listeners, and we want to give them a product that is interesting and intelligent.”

Another expansion was the futsal tournament which Torres says included over 500 young people.

“It started out with two courts. Last year we added a third court, now we’re going four courts. It’s a 3-on-3, like soccer tournament.”  

So what do folks attending think of the event? Griselda Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Grand Rapids, says she’s come every year.

“Everybody is so happy and smiley. It’s good food, a great atmosphere, and it’s also a beautiful day.”

And Griselda’s mother, Paola Rodriguez. Well, she says’ she likes the food and the people, but mostly she says if there’s a party, she’s at the party.

“Y me gusta siempre venir a la fiesta. Si hay fiesta, me vengo a la fiesta."

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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