April 17, 2007

Latino/Anglo festival day draws a crowd

Spanish was the language of choice of the more than 100 or so people who packed the Redmond Grange Hall Saturday for El Festival, an event billed as a day of unity among Latinos and Anglos.

The idea for the festival grew out of a Spanish conversation group that has been meeting on Saturday mornings at Santiago's Mate ShopOriginally the group was mostly English speakers who wanted to practice their Spanish, but last fall the group added Latinos "to help us with Spanish and we help them with English, so it's a language exchange," said Barb Eager, facilitator for the conversation group.

When planning started for the event in November, the group realized it needed sponsors and approached the Redmond Area Community Action Team and the Latino Community Association, both of which accepted major roles in the event, she said.

In less than four hours Saturday, those attending were able to learn a bit about a number of Latin American cultures, eat lunch provided by several local Mexican restaurants and be entertained with music and dance.

Displays featured art, clothing, and other items from Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Colombia and Panama.Entertainment included songs, music and dancing. Maritza Cedeno sang a sample of fiesta songs from her native Ecuador, while Maria Guadalupe "Lupe" Rodriguez and Angeles Silva performed Mexican songs.A harp and guitar duo played and sang music from Paraguay and other South American countries.

Marta Flores performed a Michoacan Indian dance and three girls gave the crowd a sample of Mexican Folklorico dancing, filled with twirling skirts.Claudia Terrazas-Herrera's daughters - Neida, 10; Victoria, 7; and Iyari, 4 -- are part of a group of about 10 who are learning to dance at an after-school program at Vern Patrick Elementary that teaches reading and writing in Spanish to Spanish-speaking children.

The event kicked off with a welcome by Redmond Mayor Alan Unger, who made his remarks in English - not Spanish."I have enough trouble with English," he said with a laugh after the speech. However, he noted, his college-age sons both do well in Spanish. "It shows that change with the generations," he said.

Bruce Stewart, a retired resident of Eagle Crest, is part of a group that meets at the resort once a week to practice Spanish. Stewart came to the festival because he of his interest in the Spanish language and because he sees the need for more interest and communication between the cultures.He took two years of Spanish in high school and one year in college, he said, and once spent a month in Ecuador.

"I tried to become fluent, but it didn't work," Stewart said, but he keeps trying. "It's important for us to recognize the people here in Central Oregon that speak the language. We need to be able to communicate with them."

Before the event, organizers weren't sure how many people would attend - just the organizers and their families or a bigger crowd, but the turnout was heartening."It's going to be a learning experience for us putting it on for the first year," Eager said. "This is the first year. We hope it becomes an annual thing," she said.

-- Trish Pinkerton

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