Latino Festival welcomes all to experience the celebration of culture

The Latino community in Iowa City is coming together to show off the annual Latino Festival.


Joshua Housing

Pedestrians cross Clinton St. and enter the Pedestrian Mall in Downtown Iowa City on Monday June 27, 2016.

Sarah Stortz, Arts Reporter

Latinos and Hispanics make up 5.9 percent of Iowa City’s total population, according to a 2016 data census. Although Latinos remain a minority in the area, an upcoming event will celebrate their increasing presence.

The Iowa City Latino Festival will take place on Sept. 23 at 207 E. Washington St. The festival will display music, dance, and food from various different countries with Latino origin.

Event organizer Manny Galvez said the festival has been a tradition in Iowa City for seven years. When he initially launched the event, he said, he had several resources while working at the University of Iowa, quickly establishing an invested committee.

Around that time, Galvez said, it was necessary for the local Latino community to begin celebrating their own culture, because he felt there were not enough local events bringing them attention.

“We’re here, we’re a part of this community, and we want to celebrate diversity,” Galvez said.

He views the event as an opportunity to build bridges with other communities around the area.

“Personally, I believe so strongly that culture — like music, dance, and food — is the best way to open doors,” he said. “The main goal is to have the opportunity [for] the Latinos to engage with the rest of the community.”

The festival could help some individuals get past stigmatizing the Latino community, Galvez said.

“This is not a political event; this is an opportunity to show us as humans,” he said.

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Committee member Elizabeth Bernal said the event has a lot of meaning to those who have emigrated from their country.

“When we left our country, we [didn’t] have anything, so we try to keep our home as close as we can,” Bernal said.

She especially wants the festival to appeal a younger generation of Latinos, because they’ll be exposed to customs they may not have experienced before, she said.

Lupe Nuñez, one of the dancers, will perform in a group that specializes in Baile folklórico, a traditional dance style from Mexico. As a child, Nuñez said, she looked up to dancers who specialized in the folk dance, wishing she could do it as well.

“It’s just a little bit to remember from your culture,” Nuñez said.

In past years, she performed in another traditional dance called the Danza de Matachines, which has origins in Native American tribes.

“Most of the people who dance in it are teenagers” she said. “When we have that dance, they enjoy it, and they like being around each other.”

The festival has previously taken themes from other countries, including Venezuela, Colombia, and Honduras.

“We try to tell the people [there’s] all this diversity in the Latino community,” Galvez said.

Galvez said he wants to make the event a safe space for all, regardless of their background.

While he thinks the festival is important in bringing everyone together, he said, he wishes for the town to make progress in terms of inclusiveness.

“I think we need to improve many things,” he said. “Not just for Latinos but for all the minorities in Iowa City … almost everyone [in the committee] is willing to embrace this and to talk on how we can create a community for everybody.”