Hispanic Heritage Month in Florida is a celebration of culture and belonging in a country that prides itself on multiculturalism. While Latino and Hispanic cultures vary in many aspects, myriad people from diverse backgrounds come together to honor their heritage from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. In Sarasota County alone, people of Latino or Hispanic descent account for more than 10 percent of the population and more than 27 percent in the whole state of Florida. Local organizations such as the Sarasota Democratic Hispanic Caucus are setting out to gather community, set differences aside and educate Hispanics and Latinos on issues that affect the community at large.
On Oct. 1, smack dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Hispanic Caucus is hosting their first ever Festival Amigos del Pueblo at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. In English this phrase means “Friends of the Neighborhood Festival.” This afternoon celebration brings together not only those of Latino or Hispanic communities and their loved ones, but musicians, food trucks and presentations on immigration, education, public health and the environment at no cost to attendees.
Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Sarah Hernandez is set to speak at the event concerning education in Florida and expanding on her own experiences as a professor of Mexican descent.
The Hispanic Caucus, with its current leadership, began to establish its roots in the Sarasota community several years ago. The Catalyst had the opportunity to speak with officials of the Hispanic Caucus about the event, the organization they belong to and their goals for future community engagement.
“We want to be a part of this community,” Vice President of the Hispanic Caucus Juan Pablo Salas explained. “We want to call upon this community to participate and there’s no better way than bringing people together with music, [food] and speeches.”
Outreach of this kind is imperative in a participatory democracy, especially for those whose first language is not English.
“The Hispanic Caucus wants to be a bridge between the Hispanic community that speaks Spanish with the rest of the community that speaks English so there is no division,” Salas continued. “We will participate in every activity that we consider to be helpful, like voter registration, participation in events, spreading the message of the Democratic party and making sure that the majority of the people have the tools necessary to make proper decisions when they vote or decide to participate in politics.”
Statistics show that college students’ participation in nationwide and local elections has risen in recent years, indicating the importance of engaging with this demographic, especially as election dates approach.
“The right thing to do is engage that younger generation,” President of the Hispanic Caucus Matt Montavon said. “Many of us are older and we have more time, but I think the students would learn a lot from engaging and [learning] ways of becoming politically active and getting to know the community.”
Salas echoed that sentiment, stating, “We understand that the political language today and the decisions that have been made, particularly in regards to New College and education in Florida, are directly affecting students and young people. We are aware of the fact that we need to increase our footprint among the youth, and for that we need to work closely with young people who are really the ones who can give us the guidance to get closer and work together.”
Any student, staff or faculty member is welcome to attend the event. The organizers stress that the gathering is not only for Latinos or Hispanics, but for anyone who wants to be a part of the fun, learn something new, or meet like-minded people in the Sarasota area.
Event-goers can expect a wide variety of food and music options from a range of Latin American and Caribbean countries. With performances and music by DJ Black Omar, focusing on Caribbean sounds, DJ Moyo, playing regional Mexican beats and Mango Rock Pop, performing various songs from across Latin America, attendees can expect to dance the night away.