Rather than have a pageant this year, organizers of the Latino Cultural Festival plan on doing something different to highlight Latino teens in Dubois County.
Young Latino Voices will feature five Latino teens on the center stage in a round table discussion with members of the Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana (ALASI).
One thing ALASI has been doing the past few years is to connect with the Latino students,” said Eber Menjivar, president of the Dubois Count nonprofit. “We will select five Latino high school students to bring up on the stage and have an informal conversation.”
The goal is to bring their views, thoughts, and experiences to light for the community.
“What it means to be Latino. What are the challenges they face? What are they proud of in being Latino,” Eber said. “Just a conversation to see what their perspectives and what it means to grow up being Mexican, El Salvadoran, Cuban, whatever the case may be.”
For Eber, growing up in Dubois County and being able to express his experiences with his parents was difficult. “There was so much room for improvement there,” he explained adding that he felt it was because of the different cultural experiences he was having in America compared to his parent’s experiences.
The organizers want to bring these voices to the forefront for the Latino community as well as the Anglo community. This gives these teens a chance to not only talk about these challenges but also creates an opportunity to open up discussion on overcoming any existing barriers and issues they may be experiencing.
Each of the five students will receive $200 for their participation.
In addition to giving teens a voice on the main stage in this special conversation, there will also be a booth available for Latinos in the community to complete a survey addressing their needs in the community. Supported through a partnership with the IU Center for Rural Engagement, the Latino Needs Assessment is the first of its kind in Dubois County according to Eber.
“We want to really focus on the needs of the Latinos in this community,” he said. “What are the issues they are struggling with? It gives our population — that is almost 10 percent of Dubois County — a voice.”
The Latino Culture Fest which is taking place this Friday and Saturday at the Huntingburg City Park is the best venue to bring these voices together into one place. The anonymous surveys take about five minutes to complete and will be turned over to the IU Center for Rural Engagement. Once they compile the responses, they will present their findings to community leaders and stakeholders.
“It is really just to see what the needs are,” Eber added.
In addition to the community-building focus, the festival will feature popular Latino musical groups, fantastic food, fun competitions, and dancing.
Friday evening, the very popular regional Mexican band, La Nueva Dosis Norteña, will be playing from 7 to 9 p.m. They have opened up for Grupo Firme, a very popular Mexican band that has been selling out stadiums.
“I have a cousin and family members in Los Angeles and they (Grupo Firme) played at the Staples Center and it was sold out,” Eber said.
On Saturday, the El Salvadoran band, Grupo Algodon, will take the stage from 7 to 9 p.m. “They are really popular as well and have been touring,” Eber said.
Bringing these groups to the festival is an important part of the event. It allows local residents to enjoy the music they can relate to and remind them of their cultural roots similar to other cultural festivals in Dubois County like the Strassenfest.
There will also be a food tasting contest with local government officials on Friday evening that challenges them to name cultural dishes after trying them. And on Saturday, there is a taco-eating contest.
There is a soccer tournament Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
Food booths open at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon and at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Entry to the event is free thanks to donations from local organizations and businesses. The organizers have spread out the layout of the festival to include more of the parking lot at Huntingburg City Park to allow for social distancing. There will be hand sanitization stations and signs reminding the public to be safe.