Hispanic festival takes center stage

Photo courtesy: Victoria Montanez

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday hosted a Hispanic Resource Festival as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. The event took place at St. Eugene Catholic Church and Student Center.

More than a dozen tents were set up with different types of Hispanic food from places such as Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Argentina, Nicaragua, Colombia and Mexico for purchase. Other businesses, including The Swat, Dive Teams, Bond Community Health Care, Leon County Emergency Medical Services, as well as other agency deputies, were available for the community to learn about the resources that are available to them. St. Eugene had hosted an annual festival for Hispanic Heritage Month but had taken a break since COVID-19 hit. This is Leon County’s fourth festival, but this is the first time LCSO has partnered with the church.

“In the past they’ve asked us to participate but unfortunately it was always on the same day we had our Hispanic resource festival so this year the Lord worked it out and we were able to partner up and have it together and have one big festival,” said Terrisa Lopez, a LCSO lieutenant.

Lourdes Howard-Thomas, a church member of St. Eugene, was impressed by the turnout.

“It’s the fourth but it feels like it’s the first one because of COVID. The last one was in 2019 so this is the first one since COVID so it is awesome, it is good that we can share this with the sheriff’s office, and the lord has blessed us with a beautiful day,” Howard-Thomas said.

Live entertainment was also provided by Paula Sofia, and a dance performance by Simply Panama, Studio D and Poquito de México. Free popcorn, snow cones, child IDs and haircuts were available at the festival. The festival’s primary objectives were to present various points of view, educate the public, address challenging social issues, forge stronger relationships within the diverse community, and increase public understanding of the traits, significance and uniqueness of the Hispanic population.

“I think it was a very good partnership. We have been able to combine resources for the community so this is awesome. A lot of people are coming in, people are enjoying themselves, the food is great, and the entertainment is awesome,” Howard-Thomas said.

The festival may have established a new tradition and standard for Hispanic heritage traditions in Tallahassee.

“We both have the same goals and on behalf of the chair’s office, it’s building and filling in that gap between law enforcement and the Hispanic community,” Lopez said.

Both LCSO and St. Eugene hope to continue working together for future Hispanic festivals to embrace the culture for all during Hispanic Heritage Month.