By Brian Blair 10/4/21
On a day to celebrate diversity amid the city’s new Ethnic Expo series, Mexican consul Daniel Aguado-Ornelas proclaimed a strong sense of unity over the well-attended Fiesta Latina Saturday along Fourth Street in downtown Columbus.
“Tonight,” he said from the stage microphone, “we are all Latino.”
That seemed a fitting way to close out the city’s new four-event Expo series that stretched through summer and fall downtown. The free series was originally formatted as a way to celebrate ethnic diversity and the community’s international flavor while allowing attendees to socially distance in smaller crowds amid the COVID-19 delta variant.
Organizers did all they could to allow for safe spacing Saturday, spreading out the south-of-the-border gathering to 10 hours weeks ago. But, three hours before the end on Saturday, new crowds still were arriving. Many among an estimated 2,000 people said food was among the draws at a gathering focused especially on Mexico and Brazil.
That included Kevin and Tracy Embree, who attended three of the four Expo gatherings celebrating different ethnicities. They are familiar with the traditional Ethnic Expo international festival unfolding over two days the second weekend of October. But now they hope that city and leaders with the Columbus Area Visitors Center and the various ethnic groups keep the new format.
“We like the idea of attending something a little different every couple of weekends,” Kevin Tracy said.
Several others said mostly the same thing, adding that additional entertainment and cross-cultural activities downtown are a great idea for bridge building amid the nation’s cultural and political bickering.
But some liked a few of the simple offerings at the fiesta presented by Su Casa, Tufuturo and the Columbus Area Visitors Center.
“I like the art,” said 8-year-old Stephanie Olivares, participating in a children’s activity of coloring drawings of ornaments.
Luz Elena Michel, Latino education and outreach program manager with the Community Education Coalition and one of the festival’s coordinators, was overwhelmed at the turnout.
“I am so very happy — yeah,” Michel said.
So, too, was Columbus North High School sophomore Rosalie Aguilar, who sang the Mexican national anthem to an appreciative audience and also performed with the Mexican dance troupe Ballet Folklórico Rarámuri.
“It means a lot to me and to my culture that all these people here today get to feel a little of what I feel (ethnically),” Aguilar said.
Mayor Jim Lienhoop saluted the city’s Latino population growth of 10 percent over the past several years.
“I am proud that Columbus is so diverse and so inclusive,” he said.
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