August 22, 2023 Community Stories
Inclusive Vision & Unified Goals: the Promise of the New England Latino Festival
The Hispanic-American Library in Springfield MA, in partnership with several other organizations, is putting together the first-ever New England Latino Festival to be held on August 25-26 at the city’s Riverfront Park.
“This will be a multi-cultural festival, and this will be the first time this has happened in the city of Springfield,” said Juan Reyes Falcon, Executive Director and founder of the Hispanic-American Library.
But the initiative behind the festival stretches beyond what promises to be two days of great music, community, diverse culinary offerings, arts, and crafts.
There is a bigger vision.
A festival rooted in community
The event will serve as the first stepping stone towards an even more ambitious goal: the creation of a Latino Cultural Center.
Ivette Bell, Chief Operating Officer of the Library, said that there were different organizations working to promote Latino culture, but not necessarily working together. The Cultural Center would help unite these efforts.
“We have created a partnership with the Puerto Rican Culture Center. They have some programs running, some of which are similar to ours. We are in conversation with their board so we don’t duplicate efforts and become more effective.”
Bell said they were working on similar partnerships with other organizations and that the center would help make such collaborations easier.
“We do not have a cultural center for Latinos. That’s one of the things that we’ve wanted to do for years. One of the reasons for the festival is to bring us together but also to give life to this project which will start with creating a physical building, a center to house all the Latino organizations, programs, and cultural events.”
The vision is for the center to be partially self-sufficient. It will include a theater and a banquet facility, both of which would help generate income. It will also house office and meeting space, among other facilities.
A heritage of perseverance and adaptation
The Hispanic-American Library isn’t new to community engagement. Founded over 25 years ago, it has continually adapted its role to serve the evolving needs of the community it represents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the library expanded its role from merely a place of literacy to a hub for social support.
“Our library became more than just about books; it became a source of social support for our community,” said Bell.
Bridging the gap with the Community Foundation
The Community Foundation has been instrumental in supporting the library’s aspirations, particularly with its Jumpstart program which offers a donor management platform and enables access to Bonterra, the new social good software created by partners Network for Good, CyberGrants, EveryAction, and Social Solutions.
“The Jumpstart program allowed us to raise over $60,000 for the festival,” said Bell. “But it’s not just about money; it’s about directly connecting us to our community through the platform’s texting and emailing features.”
Bell said that the Community Foundation had also shown a lot of support for the Cultural Center initiative.
A glimpse of the multicultural extravaganza
The New England Latino Festival promises an array of Latino artists representing Puerto Rico and countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Salvador, Peru, Cuba, and Colombia.
In addition, attendees can look forward to tasting a diverse selection of Latino cuisine.
How you can be a part of this initiative
Those interested in contributing to the development of the center can visit the Hispanic American Library’s website to register for sponsorships, donations, or even volunteer opportunities. There’s also a membership system in place for recurring support.
The festival is not just a celebration; it’s a promise of unity, inclusivity, and long-lasting community development.