Latino Fest Iowa City returns after yearlong pause

On Saturday, Iowa City held its 9th Latino Festival in the Ped Mall. The daylong festival highlighted Latino traditions, dances, food, and music and featured a multitude of events and performances.


Rachel Wagner

Dancers are seen dancing to music at the Latino Festival in Iowa City on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Rachel Wagner/The Daily Iowan)

Kate Perez, News Reporter

After a year of waiting, Latino Fest Iowa City took over the Ped Mall for the ninth time.

The festival featured a total of 17 different events scheduled throughout the day, as well as vendors lining the pathway of the Ped Mall that sold food, clothing, and homemade items. Performances ranging from dancing, dance instruction, and music to clown and storytelling in Spanish filled downtown with colorful celebration and tradition.

This year’s festival would have been its 10th, but it was canceled last year because of COVID-19. Many, like dancer Maria Trinidad Cassio, could not wait for the chance to get out and celebrate once again. Cassio said she has been performing in the festival for five years with her group, Corazón Latino.

For Cassio, the festival is more than just a celebration. It is a way to connect to her culture and feel a sense of her home in Guerrero, Mexico.

“When I dance, I feel a little bit of my country, my nationality. It’s like being close to my town,” Cassio said. “In our country, we dance once we start school. I never took classes; the kids grow up dancing and they like to dance. I try to do it to just feel like I am home a little bit. Dancing is a part of me.”

Downtown, stands spilling over with colorful homemade clothes, hats, and knick-knacks filled walkways. Music and the smell of traditional dishes swelled and swirled together in the air.  For Deisi Maximo and her family, the Latino Fest is a staple every year, but this was their first year hosting a stand of their own.

“Throughout the years we’ve been helping other stands, other people participating, volunteering, and selling here at the Latino Festival. But this year we are able to get our official stand and product from Mexico to sell to the people at the festival.” Maximo said.

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The items at her family’s stand included handmade clay pottery, painted by her family in Mexico.

“Our family from Mexico buys this material and then they paint it, they make it, and then we buy it from them, ship it, and we sell it over here,” Maximo said. “It definitely means a lot to us having this day, being able to share a part of our culture and sharing things that are beautiful to us that other people may not have the chance to experience because they don’t have time to travel over to Mexico.”

This year’s festival also introduced the Latino Community Service Award, which was awarded to Guadalupe Nuñez. A hospital interpreter and a Latino Fest volunteer since 2015, Nuñez was honored for helping build Iowa City’s Latino community.

Ultimately, for Cassio, Latino Fest Iowa City is the best way to celebrate who she is and where she came from right where she is now.

“There are only a few events just for Hispanic groups in Iowa City, and this one is the biggest for the year,” said Cassio. “We wait for the Latino Festival every year.”