“No matter what race you are, you are here:” Cultural celebration at Main Street Latin Festival
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -South Carolinians filled Main Street in celebration of Hispanic culture.
Since 2003, the Midlands has been the home of the annual Main Street Latin Festival, organized by Genaro Padilla.
“Everybody come, Latinos, no matter what race you are, you are here. Because we try to unite everybody with the festivities, with the food, with the music, and everybody has a great time at least one Saturday of the year. The fourth Saturday in August, Main Street Latin Festival,” said Padilla.
Padilla came to the mainland from San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1978 when he joined the army. In 1990, he relocated to the Midlands.
On Saturday, a few weeks before Hispanic Heritage Month, event attendees enjoyed music, Latin paraphernalia, vendors and food from all over Latin America and the Caribbean.
“People come in, mingle, around here, eat, dance. You know, this festival has been done for so many years that we got people to come and made this festival like a reunion,” Padilla said.
Food vendors surrounded the street, representing their businesses, some from all over Columbia. Business partners and friends, Mari Paz Hernandez and Jose Del Castillo -- both of Mexican descent -- were in attendance serving hungry eventgoers.
Hernandez and Del Castillo run Los Bellos Portales Latin Restaurant at 108 Columbia NE Drive. They have participated in the festival for 12 years.
“Well, we participate so our people get the opportunity to eat our Latin food. Because we don’t only sell Mexican food but from other Latin places. Like Columbia, Venezuela,” said Hernandez in Spanish.
Though the festival was meant to celebrate Hispanic/Latin culture, many people of different races and ethnicities came in to experience something new.
“Well this is my second time attending, I came last year, and I am just enjoying the food, the culture. I ate at Paella South, every time they are vending out and I am in the area, I try to stop by and get some Paella and lemonade. And I am just enjoying the culture, the music, the food, and the festivities,” said Elana Frazier, a community member and event attendee.
Frazier said that as a native of New York, she enjoys watching and learning about other cultures, a big reason why she attended the festival for the second year in a row.
According to Padilla, the festival was founded by Coqui Coqui Productions with the help of other organizations. In 2005, Padilla took over and has been organizing the event ever since.
The festival started small, but throughout the years it has taken two blocks of Main Street.
“So you start building from that and think it’s a long time and planning. Is a very, very, very difficult thing to do. But with the help of the community, the sponsors, the City of Columbia, The Richland County, we can do some fun things and have this wonderful festival for the community,” Padilla said.
The festival is made possible each year with the help of various sponsors and the endorsement of the City of Columbia.
Attendees said this kind of event is important so others are more aware of the different cultures residing in the United States, specifically, the Midlands.
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