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National Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off Saturday



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Eduardo Isidro and spouse Leuz Lopez dance with friends to the music of Mariachi Zelaya during the Hispanic Heritage Day Celebration in 2017 in the Monroe County Public Library. Andrew Williams Buy Photos

The farmer’s market will have an extra flair this Saturday as National Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off nearby with live dancing, Latin music, informational resources and more. 

Bloomington has long celebrated the month to recognize the presence and contributions of Latino and Hispanic Americans, said Josefa Luce, Latino programs coordinator for the City of Bloomington.

The City of Bloomington has teamed up with several organizations to organize a variety of events from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The city is working with El Centro Comunal Latino, a nonprofit that connects community members with health services and resources, La Casa Latino Cultural Center and other organizations.

Hispanic Heritage Week started in 1968 and was extended to a full month twenty years later. 

It begins Sept. 15 to coincide with the national independence days for Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Mexico celebrates the following day, Chile on Sept. 18 and Belize Sept. 21. 

The month also aligns with the beginning of the school semester, creating an opportunity to highlight programs offered by a variety of Latino groups throughout campus and the community, said Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa Latino Cultural Center.

“It just, again, goes to show that there is a strong fabric of different people who are here to create community for Latinos, and anybody who wants to be a part,” Casillas said. 

The Latino community in Bloomington is very diverse, Casillas said. People come from many ethnicities, professions and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Members of the community hail from Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Panama, among others, Luce said. 

“We get to learn from each other,” Luce said. 

The celebration will begin with Fiesta del Otoño this Saturday at Showers Plaza. The 13th annual event will feature dance performances, resource tables, a career and jobs fair, free dance lessons and a DJ playing Latino music. 

The performance lineup includes Ginga Brasil Capoeira, Ballet Folklórico de IU and more. Paso a Paso, an IU student organization, will teach free dance lessons followed by a dance competition. The winning couple will receive tickets to see Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Los Camperos at the IU Auditorium. 

Nonprofit agencies All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, El Centro Comunal Latino, adult English training service VITAL, United Way of Monroe County, Girls Inc. of Monroe County and others will have tables at the event.  

Activities will continue throughout the month. The Copa Bloomington soccer tournament will start Sept. 16. Community members can write letters to separated families at All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center on Sept. 19 and watch "Coco" on Sept. 21 at Bryan Park. 

A full schedule of events can be found on the city’s website

People can use these activities to start participating in the Latino community, Casillas said, but she hopes it doesn’t stop there. 

“This is a great way to get hooked and then just stay connected through the rest of the year," Casillas said.

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