Fest’s music, dance open door to culture

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Oscar Dubon, 11, right, spins Gaby Gomez, 9, both of Huntingburg, during the Latino Culture Fest at Huntingburg City Park on Saturday.


HUNTINGBURG — There’s something about music and dance that can make a person feel close to their roots, while also bringing others closer to a way of life they’d never experienced before.

That was the case Friday and Saturday at the Latino Culture Fest in Huntingburg, when local and out-of-area performers took the stage to share their culture and unite a community, all while having fun.

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The weekend marked the seventh annual hosting of the event at Huntingburg City Park by the Asociación Latinoamericana del Sur de Indiana, or the Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana.

“It’s bringing people together,” Evelyn Rivas, ALASI president, said of the fest. “It’s just cultural appreciation. We’re your neighbor. We’re making up quite a bit of [the] percentage of the community, so [we] might as well celebrate that.”

Added Eber Menjivar, co-vice president of ALASI: “The purpose of this festival is not just to bring the Latinos here. Our purpose is to include everyone because that’s how we’re going to make the city [and] the county better. Everyone becoming inclusive.”

Rivas explained that Latinos see their music as “very lively, even when it’s sad.” Everything has a beat and rhythm, and that pulse was felt throughout the weekend as guests heard songs by Grupo Guanaco, a local Latin band; Mazizo Musical, a popular Chicago-based duranguense band; as well as a pair of DJs armed with thousands of songs.

Lupita Sanchez, 13, of Dale, performs a traditional dance during the Latino Culture Fest at Huntingburg City Park on Saturday. The fest was a two-day event that included dancing, music, food, eating contests, face painting, crafts, henna tattoos and character drawings.

When Jose Dubon plays synthesizers in Grupo Guanaco, he feels connected to his heritage and his past.

“For all Latino people, when they hear something in Spanish, they connect,” he said, adding that the themes of the band’s songs can touch on personal topics like traveling across the world and leaving a part of your life behind.

“We play some songs that talk about when we had to come over here,” he said. “And it’s really hard because a lot of people, they left family over there.”

He moved with his family to Maryland from Mizata — which is located in the southwestern Salvadorian department of La Libertad — 22 years ago, and the family later made its way to Huntingburg.

Local dancers perform traditional dances during the Latino Culture Fest at Huntingburg City Park on Saturday.

On Friday night, a group of 5-to-13-year-old dancers performed shortly after the festival’s opening ceremonies wrapped up. The girls twirled in flowing, colorful dresses and the boys stepped sharply in white suits.

“My favorite part is that I get to teach people the culture that I like and where I come from,” said Lupita Sanchez, 13, of Dale. “And I get to represent Mexico.”

Culture is spread even outside of the musical and dance performances that take center stage at the event. Many tents and booths are stationed at the festival, giving attendees the opportunity to bond over something everyone loves — food.

Having positive conversations and showcasing the diverse community is important to Dubon.

“For me, it’s important because we can present all the Latino culture we have from many different countries,” he said.

Keyla Lopez, 9, of Dale, performs a traditional dance during the Latino Culture Fest at Huntingburg City Park on Saturday.

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