For Isabel Contreras, Hispanic Heritage month is all about honoring the multi-faceted origins of Latinx culture.
“The AfroLatine festival was to bring black and brown communities together, but then to also highlight the conversation of black people in Latin America, and how that often goes under the radar,” Contreras says. “So just trying to educate people on that, invite the conversation.”
Contreras is a local organizer and founder of Mi Gente, which curates cultural events for the community in an effort to spotlight BIPOC & AAPI. In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, which begins this Friday, Mi Gente in collaboration with Santa Cruz Art League is throwing an event that celebrates the African roots and influences on Latin American culture.
The event will feature some 20 arts & craft vendors, Latin American food options from various countries such as Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador and more, with live performances from La Cumbiamba Colombiana, Freeborn, Samba Soul Dance, and more.
Even though Contreras wants this to be a cultural arts festival, she also hopes it will be educational. She plans on including a brief history of Hispanic Heritage month to explain what the festival is honoring. There will also be a scavenger hunt of facts throughout the event that elaborates on Afro-Latinos and how Latin American culture has Black roots.
“I want people to know what it is that we’re celebrating, so you’re aware of what it is that you’re walking into, and you’re not excluded, just because it’s not your culture,” Contreras says. “That’s the thing that I’m trying to bring to light too with these cross-cultural collaborations within the festivals. I want to show that maybe culturally and with our food and things like that, it’s different, but boil it down to what it is that we actually value as a culture and a people and it’s very, very similar.”
Ultimately, Contreras hopes that people who attend the festival will walk away with a deeper understanding of different cultures.
“I just want people to be more open-minded about one another, have compassion and grace for each other,” Contreras says. “Life is not easy, especially being a person of color, especially being a mixed person of color. It can also be confusing. And so like, with these festivals, it’s like, I don’t want to exclude anybody.”
When: Saturday, Sept. 16, from 12-6pm
Where: Woodhouse Blending & Brewing, 119 Madrone St.