By Heather Fabritze
Throughout the month of September, the Kent Cultural Alliance and other local organizations encouraged Latino community members to display and share their pride in their heritage.
The alliance, in partnership with the Kent County Local Management Board and E(Ñ)E: Alianza para la Cultura and Comunidad Hisapana, planned a series of three events stretching from Friday, Sept. 8 to Saturday, Sept. 30. Each event was designed to celebrate and bring together the Latino community and greater Kent County.
While Easton, Md. holds a similar festival, this year is the first that Chestertown will be putting on its own.
According to local artist Fredy Granillo, the event organizers hoped that these events would make the Latino community more visible in town, providing them a space to honor their heritage.
Director of the Kent Cultural Alliance John Schratwieser planned the logistics of the series. Granillo was just one of a few people selected to reach out to Latino families in the area and encourage them to get involved.
Part of the overall goal for Granillo was to disprove the idea that there was not a strong Latino community in town.
“I am Latino and I want to feel like I’m not the only Latino in downtown Chestertown,” Granillo said. “I would love to bring more Latinos to enjoy the activities and make Chestertown more diverse in terms of people from different places.”
The opening event on Sept. 8 at the Raimond Cultural Center featured original paintings by Granillo, as well as other exhibits like masks and textiles from Latin America. Its potluck included foods from seven different countries.
A week later, vendors, food trucks, and a DJ set up on Park Row for their Fiesta Latina. Community members gathered around and picnicked in Fountain Park, enjoying the traditional Latino food and music.
Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Sara Clarke-De Reza not only attended the event to appreciate the cuisine, but also to “support the effort.”
“I think it’s really important for us to be celebrating the multicultural composition of Kent County and I think this is a really good way to do it,” Dr. Clarke-De Reza said.
Another WC faculty member who came to enjoy the festivities, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Dr. Martín Ponti, said that he looks forward to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month every September.
“In the last few years, it’s been great with how it’s been growing in Chestertown,” Dr. Ponti said. “I’m looking forward to supporting the community and [to] help it keep growing.”
He said that he loved that the Fiesta allowed him to see people that he does not always get the chance to interact with and to connect with them even further.
Associate Professor and Department Chair of Art History Dr. Benjamin Tilghman said that having the opportunity to attend impactful events was one of the greatest bonuses of working at WC and living in Chestertown.
“For Washington College faculty…We’re part of this community geographically but sometimes not always culturally,” Dr. Tilghman said.
The many Latino families and residents who assisted in planning activities for the month, including Granillo, entered the process with a similar goal. Granillo hoped that the festivities that they held could communicate as much of their shared heritage as possible.
“I want to make Latin American culture more visible,” Granillo said. “We are not just one thing. We’re not just food, we’re not just music. We have traditions, we have artists, we have many people that we want to bring and show that.”
The final event in the series is their Danza and Cultura, which will be hosted in two sessions on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 and 4 p.m. respectively. Multiple performances will occur at the Raimond Cultural Center, including a singer from Argentina, a Folklórica dance from Mexico, and lessons in Latin American dances.
More info about reserving seating for the event can be found on the Kent Cultural Alliance’s website.
Photo by Heather Fabritze
Photo Caption: Fiesta Latina kicked off at 6 p.m. in the evening and lasted for three hours.