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Windham celebrates Latino heritage with new Latin Multicultural Festival

The festival was a way to celebrate the town's diverse Latino population which makes up 40% of the community.

WINDHAM, Conn. — The town of Windham held its first Latin Multicultural Festival Saturday at Jillson Square to celebrate the town's Latino population.

40% of the town is Latino. Jim Bellano, the director of community and economic development, says it began when the mills were still in operation and people came from Puerto Rico to work. They have since closed, but the culture and people stayed.

"Being a Latina, I am very proud of my culture," Brenda Ingles, Willimantic, said. "This is a very small community but there’s a lot of Latinos living here as far as Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Peruvians, all kinds."

People could learn about the culture and cuisines of different Hispanic heritages. Angeles Mexican Food offered authentic flavors for people to try. They've been in town since the 1990s.

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"It’s amazing because we have a lot of different people from different countries. They’re like, "I’ve never tried Mexican food, let me try it" and they leave and they come back, "Can I get another taco?" Edith Gonzalez said.

Credit: FOX61
Angeles Mexican Food offered authentic flavors Saturday at Windham's first Latin Multicultural Festival.

A dozen food vendors and dozens more other vendors filled the park Saturday as bands played on Shaboo Stage throughout the day.

The money the town received from the American Rescue Plan helped put on the event. Bellano says they wanted to help local businesses.

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"I've been talking to people from Bridgeport, New Britain, New London that are also here," he said. "The people are happy because of the music and because of the food that’s here."

He says the history of the town is seen everywhere including in the police department and town leadership. The director says there was and still remains a lot of opportunity for people in Windham.

Gladys Lebron-Martinez was in town from Massachusetts and decided to stop by the event.

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"We heard it on the radio. We said let’s go check it out and see what they got to offer when it comes to multicultural communities," she said. "It brings people together, richness. Shows that we have different ethnic groups."

People say, while the town may have a rich Puerto Rican history, there are so many diverse groups of people in Windham and this event helps celebrate them all. 

The second annual Windham County Latino Fest will kick off on September 24th at Jillson Square. Bellano says they look forward to hosting the Latin Multicultural Festival again next year.

Tony Black is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. He can be reached at ablack@fox61.com. Follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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