WINDHAM, Conn. — The second annual Windham County Latino Fest drew hundreds to downtown Willimantic Saturday to celebrate the Latino culture of the community.
Festival organizer Victor Luna said they raised thousands of dollars to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona ripped through the island this week.
"When the community can just come out here and support what we got going on but also the crisis that is going on outside of here," he said.
Willimantic's Ivan Bobe was glad to see efforts in Connecticut to help the territory they still have ties.
"Being here, supporting this effort to all the people in Puerto Rico means a lot to us because we have families over there," Bobe said.
He said it's great seeing the event bring the area back to life. Windham has a population of more than 40% Latino. It's a part of the history and heritage and they're glad it's being honored.
"I grew up here, and there was a time when Willimantic was like lost," Bobe said. "To see this now, it’s like wow."
The event, held at Shaboo Stage, attracted artists from other countries to perform in Connecticut. The free event was also a chance for local businesses like Garo's Place to share some of their authentic flavors with people.
"The liveliness of the Hispanics, and all the music, the food, and the enjoyment that everything brings," owner Margarita Lopez said. "I enjoy it, the music, the people doing the food. I love to cook."
Sponsors like Hartford Healthcare helped connect people with resources. Jose Garcia said they often encounter people who don't know how to navigate the healthcare system because it's not offered in their language.
"One of our core values is to be embedded in the community, and we want to showcase the services that we offer," the director of business development and integration said. "We celebrate, obviously our heritage, but also the contributions that we’ve made to this country, the Hispanic and Latinx Americans."
Wethersfield's A Better Life Homecare, offering home care services for seniors, also helped sponsor the event. Outreach manager William Mendoza said it's great seeing people come out and enjoy each other presence's again after the pandemic.
"I came to this country when I was a year old and we never lost our culture. I’m totally bilingual and I can communicate to my community and be able to teach them about these programs that exist out there," he said.
Luna said it's exciting to celebrate the event during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.
"We celebrate the Latino culture in a little bit of a month that we have but we make it the best that we can," he said. "It’s basically like a movement and we’re just telling people yes Se Puede we can."
The 3rd annual festival is scheduled for September 16th from noon to 7 p.m. at the Shaboo Stage.
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