Pamela Delgado and Ivan Ramirez, who are spending two years away from their homes in Costa Rica to study mathematics at ETSU, said the 2013 Corazón Latino Festival surprised them.
“We didn’t know there was such a large Latin community,” Delgado said. “We heard about the event two days ago and decided to come check it out. We are really surprised about all the different cultures you can find in Johnson City.”
During the festival, the diversity within the Latin community was showcased with booths lining Main Street in conjunction with First Friday on May 3.
“I like to participate in these events where different cultures are represented,” said Lucy Velez, who showed people how to play percussion instruments like the maraca and guiro at her Puerto Rican booth. “It’s for the people in the Tri-Cities to learn about different cultures like us for example.”
Velez said children enjoy the instruments most.
“They will come over and we make noise and have fun,” Velez said.
Although working hard to educate those who stop by her booth about her culture, Velez said she is able to enjoy the other festivities as well.
“I go to the tables and also learn different types of arts and crafts from other countries,” said Velez, who lives in Kingsport. “And, the music, I enjoy the music and the gathering atmosphere is so festive. I also love to dance so I go over here and enjoy myself.”
Delgado and Ramirez said they look forward to the event next year and plan to get more involved.
“We regret not making a table for our country this year, but maybe next year,” Delgado said.
Juan Avila, the main coordinator of the 2013 Corazón Latino Festival, said the festival gets to the heart of Latin culture.
“Corazón means heart,” Avila said. “We want to share Hispanic or Latino art and culture with the community.”
Avila said the festival is very close to his own heart.
“This festival means a lot to me because it gives me an opportunity to share my country and my culture with the Johnson City community,” Avila said. “The main objective is to be able to have people understand and celebrate diversity. We have so many cultures in Johnson City that wanting to be a part of this and share that culture, that’s what drives us all.”
The fourth annual Corazón Latino Festival was organized by East Tennessee State University’s Language and Culture Resource Center and the Hispanic American Student Community Alliance.
Avila said it is the mission of those organizations to spread knowledge about the Latin culture throughout the community by organizing the event.
“We’ve been growing for the last three years,” Avila said. “Three years ago we had like 500 people showing up. Last year we had between 1,200 and 5,000, people. This year we’re hoping more people are talking about it and they can come here and enjoy this evening.”
Activities included bilingual storytelling, face painting, a live band with dance floor, Capoeira and Salsa lessons as well as booths representing many Latin countries.
The festival also featured a second annual Mock Running of the Bulls where seven Little City Roller Girls charged at runners while wearing helmets with horns and carrying foam bats.
Little City Roller Girls announcer Shannon D. Brown said the idea was inspired by a roller derby team in New Orleans.
“It started with the Corazón Latino folks who had talked with some of our folks and they just thought that it would be a wacky thing to do,” Brown said.
Brown said helping out the community is part of the roller derby way.
Also assisting the festival were the Friends of Olde Down Towne, who incorporate the festival into the monthly First Friday event held downtown, Avila said.
“We have had good support from the First Friday event,” Avila said. “We are very grateful for that.”