Latino festival draws diverse crowd for 10th anniversary celebration

147874 articles in the archive and more added every day

Latino festival draws diverse crowd for 10th anniversary celebration

By DANIEL BROWNSTEIN dbrownstein@islandpacket.com 843-706-8125
Published Monday, October 22, 2007 in The Island Packet  |  485 Words  |  news/local

When Consuelo Saldivar moved to Hilton Head Island 18 years ago, she missed the cuisine of her home, a Texas border town.
Being on the front end of Hispanic immigration to the island meant difficulty in finding the basics, like fresh tortillas or decent jalapenos.
Things have changed.
Now Hilton Head has several tortillerias, a network of Latino-owned businesses and two festivals geared toward the area's most recent immigrants, and one of those festivals celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday.
Over the past decade, Sabor Latino Festival, meaning "Taste of Latino," has grown from a small gathering in a church parking lot to a full-blown celebration in Shelter Cove Community Park. It's a sampler plate of all points south of the United States, and more recently, many Lowcountry neighborhoods.
"We like to get together because we speak the same language, but we're all different," said Saldivar, co-owner of Fiesta & Party and a festival organizer. "The one thing we have in common is we like to party -- and we like to party very late."
And party they did, with plenty of beer, food, traditional music and dancing. Organizers estimated about 5,000 people attended the early fiesta, which fell just after Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 16) and ended before the sun set.
But there also was a serious side to the festival.
"The idea behind this is to display Hispanic culture because it's so varied," said Eric H. Esquivel, a festival organizer and president of La Isla, a bilingual island magazine. "It's also a way to bring the two communities together very peacefully, especially in the heat of what's happening right now."
With the growth of the local Hispanic community and national debate on porous borders and undocumented workers, there's also been a backlash toward the recent immigrants: a condominium complex considering using federal employment eligibility forms to screen tenants and a county illegal immigration law that requires businesses to prove their workers are legal.
There also are misconceptions, such as Hispanic and Latino people speak the same language, so they must share the same culture.
Money raised through beer and food sales will benefit local charities serving the Hispanic community.
Some of the booths focused on giving out information rather than churros.
A pregnancy clinic handed out brochures about prenatal care. The Latin American Council of South Carolina's table was covered with pamphlets on topics such as English classes and advertisements to find Spanish-speaking foster parents. But the overarching message was motivational: Don't be timid.
"Our goal is to help Latinos assimilate into the American way of life," said Agustin Martinez Jr., a business consultant, translator and chairman of the council's Beaufort chapter. "What we want to get out (to recent immigrants) is don't hold back. You're in a country where people are encouraged to step up and get involved."