Hispanic Heritage Month

Marisa Hayase

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    The Hawaii Hispanic Heritage Festival is the largest annual celebration to promote Hawaii’s growing Hispanic community. Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15, and comes to a close on Oct. 15, the day of the festival.

    “We’re in our 27th year right now, and only four years I did not do it because of health issues. Other than that, I’ve done it every year, and how I got involved is that, I’m Puerto Rican and I just wanted to have something that all of the Hispanic community could enjoy. And then of course, our people here of Hawaii, ‘cause we’re the melting pot of the Pacific,” said Festival Coordinator Nancy Ortiz.

    Every year, Hawaii’s families attend this event to learn more about Hispanic culture through games, food, music, dance, crafts, and children’s activities. “It started as a picnic at Ala Moana Park, and then throughout the years, people just said, ‘Oh, well why don’t we get our foods involved’—people that liked to make the different types of Hispanic foods. And so it started small, and it increased,” said Ortiz. The festival now hires vendors to cater their event, along with live entertainment from both the mainland and Hawaii.

    Hispanic Heritage Month started 29 years ago, when it was first established by President Ronald Reagan. It was set to begin on Sept. 15, because this date is near Independence Day for many of the Latin American countries. “We have 22 countries, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted just everybody to come together,” said Ortiz.

     Hawaii Hispanic Heritage Festival & Events has a mission to promote Hispanic culture through their events, and express their appreciation for the heritage that contributes to Hawaii’s diversity. “We’ve been doing it—out of the 27 years we’ve been doing it—at Kapiolani Park I would say for about 20 years. And then we did it a couple years at Honolulu Hale, we did it once at the waterpark, and this year we’re doing it at McCoy Pavilion,” said Ortiz. They hope to keep strengthening the presence of Hispanic culture in Hawaii, and to further educate the community about Hispanic heritage in the years to come.

Hawaii’s Hispanic Heritage Festival & Health Fair takes place on Sunday, Oct. 15 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the McCoy Pavilion located in Ala Moana Beach Park.