The streets of downtown Seymour were filled Saturday afternoon with the sounds of music provided by a Mexican street band and the smell of traditional foods from Latin America.
A dance group from Columbus also provided those attending the first Latino Festival at One Chamber Square with a look at another part of Latino culture.
There were many goals behind the event, sponsored by the Latino Council, but one important one.
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“We just wanted to build a bridge between the Latino community and the Anglo community and help break the language barrier,” Magda Posadas said.
Posadas, who works for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, is one of the original members of the Latino Council. The other founding members of the council, established in 2009, are Ana De Gante, Kim Barnett and Missy Woods.
The festival is just one way the council is trying to build that bridge, De Gante said.
“We want to be part of the community,” said De Gante, who works for Seymour Community School Corp.
Race, skin color and culture should not play a role in society, she added.
“We want to promote that,” De Gante said.
With the growth of the Latino population in Seymour in recent years, it’s important the schools support and provide for Latino students, she said.
“And we also want to encourage them to be proud of their community,” De Gante said.
To do that, the council has conducted a number of events over the years, including a school supply drive, a dance and a Mother’s Day event, Woods said.
“This is our first festival,” said Woods, who is director of Human Services Inc. in Seymour.
The event featured Mariachi Azteca from Lexington, Kentucky. Mariachi music began in rural parts of Mexico but came with the citizens when people migrated to larger cities. It now represents Mexico.
A Mexican dance group, Ballet Folkloric of Columbus, performed a traditional dance. That group also appeared in Seymour in May during a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.
A local Mexican bakery, Panderia Seymour, and a local food truck from a Mexican store provided food. Local disc jockey Carlos Ramirez provided music for dancing.
Those businesses along with other Latino restaurants and businesses in the area sponsored the festival and helped pay for the bands. Girls Inc. of Jackson County made colorful flowers for the festival.
De Gante said the festival, however, was not just about Mexico and was for Latinos from all over central America because many of those living in Seymour aren’t from Mexico.
Mexico’s Independence Day was Friday, and that was another reason organizers picked Saturday for the festival, she said.
“But a lot of (Latin America) countries celebrate their Independence Days in September,” De Gante said.
Woods said Tonja Couch, director of Jackson County United Fund, has started attending council meetings this year, and the hope is that Latino Council can build a strong partnership with that organization and others in the community in the coming years.
Woods said she was pleased with the turnout for the event.
If you missed out this year, there will be a festival next year, she said.