Hispanic League Celebrates 25 Years with FIESTA

“We are excited to be celebrating 25 years as the Hispanic League of Winston-Salem,” said Juan Aguilar, Program Coordinator of the Hispanic League. “What began as a small group of Hispanics getting together to celebrate our different cultures has now turned into a large community outreach program.”

Aguilar, who has been working with the Hispanic League since January of last year, was prompted to join the group because of the work they do with the Hispanics/Latinos of the area. “I really was impressed with the variety of different outreach programs the League does.”

This upcoming September 23rd, downtown Winston-Salem will once again host the Hispanic League’s best-known event, FIESTA! The streets will be bustling to the beat of Latin music, the sights of Salsa dancers and aroma of mouthwatering food that makes up FIESTA 2017! What makes this year’s FIESTA unique in itself, is that it marks the 25th anniversary of the original event.

For the past 25 years, the Hispanic League has been hosting their FIESTA event in downtown Winston-Salem to promote diversity, celebrate Hispanic/Latino heritage and advance a cross-cultural understanding of the different cultures that make up a large percentage of our community. What started as a small multicultural festival has today become a renowned Winston-Salem tradition, boasting an average attendance of over 20,000 people. This statistic alone makes it one of the largest one-day festivals in the Triad!

This year, the event will be held on Fourth Street, Poplar Street, Spruce Street, Holly Avenue, at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, Sawtooth School for Visual Art, Winston Square Park, and the Hanebrands Theater Parking Area. In true “fiesta-style,” the event will begin at 8:00 am with the Running of the Bulls, “Magnifico Mile.” This run begins at the corner of Poplar Street and Holly Avenue and continues down 2nd Street to N. Chestnut and returns. Just like the original bull-running event in Spain, in this event runners will be racing at top speed. The one mile run/walk awards prizes to the top 3 runners, including a gift of 30,000 American Airline miles to the top male and top female runner! Other awards include medals for those placing in each age group, as well as awards for those who are “best dressed.”

The festival itself begins at 11:30 am, with a naturalization ceremony by USCIS in the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. This is the second time this ceremony will be performed at FIESTA, with an estimated 25 individuals becoming citizens of the United States. Directly following will be the annual “Flags of Our Heritage Parade,” stopping at each of the three stages. This vibrant parade celebrates all Latin American countries and Hispanic Americans and finishes at the main stage with a proclamation from Mayor Joines and other officials.

While the appealing food and live entertainment is what usually draws attendees to FIESTA, the event also offers unique arts and crafts, as well as vendors selling their distinctive jewelry and attire. The event, which is rain or shine, also boasts a healthy-living area, as well as a fun-filled children’s area. Public parking garages are located on the corner of 4½ Street and Poplar and Cherry Street, near the Embassy Suites. There is also “on the street” parking in the surrounding area.

While FIESTA is one of the Hispanic League’s most celebrated functions, it should not outshine the League’s other first-rate community outreach programs. “What first drew me to work for the League was that they were strong advocates for education programs for the Latino/Hispanic groups in the area,” said Aguilar.

The Hispanic League hosts a variety of different educational series, such as the Middle School Achievers’ program. This group, which originally started in 1997, is now at 9 different schools in the WSFC school system. The program helps mentor Hispanic/Latino students through providing them with eye-opening educational programs. For example, different speakers from the Early College Program come in to talk with the students about how they can also gain early college credit. Former Middle School Achiever students also come in to talk about how they overcame their own obstacles in life. Likewise, the group does a variety of different team building and writing activities.

After middle school, the students are encouraged to become a part of the YMCA Latin Achievers or Crosby Scholars. Following high school, the Hispanic League is able to offer college scholarships to deserving Hispanic/Latino students. This year at their Spanish Nite Gala, the League was able to award 41 scholarships. Since the year 2000, the program has awarded 369 scholarships valued at $825,000.

Aguilar is proud to be a part of an organization that has been providing top- notch community programs for the past 25 years. Aguilar doesn’t see the League slowing down quite yet, and in fact believes their programs and events will only continue to expand. “I would like to see the Hispanic League continue to grow and build,” said Aguilar. “Specifically, I would like the organization to optimize the outstanding programs that are already in place.”

Established in 1992, the Hispanic League has as its mission to improve the quality of life for Hispanics/Latinos through community inclusion, education, health and multicultural understanding. For more information on the Hispanic League, to learn about upcoming events, to become a member and receive a photo identification card, to volunteer, to make a donation, or to stay connected to your local Hispanic/Latino community, visit www.hispanicleague.org, e-mail juan@hispanicleague.org or call 336­770­1228.

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