Before I start on my post, I want to take you back to my childhood, a place called California! My sisters and I were raised in beautiful Southern California. We moved around and finally set roots in Rancho Cucamonga. My mother as most of my readers know is from Sevilla, Spain. At the time, California was the perfect place for my mother to settle in the United States. To live in California, you don’t need to speak English. Latino’s, mostly Mexican, make up the majority of the population. It was a place where she could slowly learn the American culture while still being able to communicate with people.
Fast forward to 1995 and a complete shock to my entire family as we were told that my father’s job was placing us to a distant land, called Des Moines, Iowa. I was 16 years old. It was the the middle of my junior year in high school. I was involved in soccer and band and remember vividly the day my Papi broke the news. Papi picked me up from soccer practice and asked me, “What do you think about Iowa?” I laughed and replied, “What do you mean, what do I think about Iowa? Isn’t that where they grow potatoes?” He looked at me and said, “I”m sorry mija, that’s where we’re moving.” I cried on the way home.
When we first drove into Iowa in February of 1995, it was cold… no, freezing! We were able to witness our first snow. As exciting as that was, feelings of isolation also started to set in. After being immersed in diversity our entire lives, it was a feeling of being… different. It was difficult as we weren’t able to find tortilla’s, chorizo, or evoo that we were used to. I can remember my mother and I feeling wandering eyes as we spoke Spanish. I think for my mom, it became a reality that she now had to learn to speak English.
As my family spent year after year getting accustomed to Iowa and all that it had to offer, something was happening. Something was changing. That something was diversity, culture, food, and people.
My family has lived in Iowa for fourteen years and I can now say that Des Moines is one of the most rich, diverse, and accepting communities in the nation. I am proud to live in Des Moines and so happy to call it home. Within the 14 years that we have lived here, Latinos now make up the largest ethnic population. We are also filled with the beautiful cultures of people from Europe, Sudan, Bosnia, Asia, India and other Arabic countries. Our metropolis of just over 500,000 people has many ethnic markets such as Mexican, Asian, Indian, African and European. All offering specialty foods of meats, sausages, spices and pastries. With these changes and the increase in cultures comes food and festival celebrations! Our small metro is home to the largest Latino festival in the midwest!
Iowa’s Latino Heritage festival! This festival is now in it’s 7th year and year after year grows larger as people from all over the midwest come to celebrate 21 different countries. This festival is about showcasing the differences within the Latino community and sharing how our cultures also enrich the communities in which we currently live. What better way to do this, than to do as Latinos do best, eat, dance and be LOUD! CARAZA style baby, yeah!!
Come celebrate with me as I take you through Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival!
Besides, the great dancing and cultural exhibits, my favorite part about the festival is of course the FOOD!!
What I don’t have pictured is the evening dance where thousands gather for a true night of Latino heritage and pride! I am so proud to be Latina. To have cultures within me from different sides of the world. 50% Mexican… 50% Spanish… 100% Latina!
Iowa… Corn and Pigs? Not Anymore!