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Food, music, and dance mark the start of Hispanic Heritage Month

On both sides of the river, events showcased the diversity and recent growth of Louisiana's Hispanic and Latino population.

KENNER, La. — Haga clic aquí para leer este artículo en español.

The first weekend of Hispanic Heritage Month was full of food, dancing, and music on both sides of the river. The events, some of them relatively new, showcased the diversity and growing size of Louisiana’s Hispanic and Latino population.

On Saturday, the French Market hosted a Hispanic Heritage Celebration for the second year in a row. Since last year, the festival has expanded considerably, going “from one stage to two stages, from five bands or seven bands to almost twelve,” according to festival producer Carlos Valledales.

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15. Valledales explained that it begins in mid-September because that is when many Latin American countries celebrate their independence. It’s both educational, he said, “and an excuse to have fun, to gather, to enjoy, to have food.”

Across the river in Harvey, the Baleada Fest showcased not only Honduras’ signature folded, filled tortilla but also cuisines from many other countries. 

“We have folks from everywhere here,” said organizer Rafael Saddy, “and that’s what makes it so much fun.”

Olga Ospina served arepas, empanadas, and other Colombian dishes from a booth that she is hoping to turn into a restaurant one day. She told WWL-TV in Spanish her dream is to familiarize people with Colombian food and provide jobs for others.

Baleada Fest started in Kenner five years ago. Last year was the first on the Westbank. Saddy said organizers moved it because they saw a need for a Hispanic Heritage festival in the area. 

“We have a responsibility to mingle with society, to interact with society,” he said, “and what better way than with music and with food, there is no language barrier.”

At the same time, the Hispanic Heritage Fair was happening at Heritage Park in Kenner. The crowded event also featured food and live performances.

Nicaraguan folk dance group Nicaragua Mia was twirling onstage when WWL-TV arrived. 

“We love it, we love it, it comes from our heart,” said dancer Sergio Escobar. 

Another, Lourdes Sanchez, said part of the purpose of the group is to pass Nicaraguan culture down to their kids. “They are Americans, born here,” she said. “But our blood is from Nicaragua, so we want them to know where we come from and what we do and who we are.”

Many more events will take place in Southeast Louisiana throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. One of the largest, Que Pasa Fest, will take place at Lafreniere Park in Metairie October 8-9.

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