This past weekend, September 29-30, the Lackawanna County Courthouse square was home to the annual Scranton Latin Festival.
Blanca Fernandez organized the event that gathered multiple local performers, musicians, and vendors to come together and celebrate their Hispanic heritage. Fernandez says she wanted the festival to be multicultural and diverse “to promote harmony, love, tolerance, acceptance. Everything that’s needed nowadays.”
On Saturday, attendees could watch performances from Noelia Otayza and Ludy Rosales, Champions of Marinera Norteña Peru, a Peruvian coastal dance. Also showcasing their heritage was Frank LittleBear and his family. LittleBear is from the Cree Nation and the founder of Red Visions Dance Troupe, a group dedicated to outreach, understanding, and education of Native American culture through performing arts.
Sunday had a different lineup with several DJs playing Spanish hits from past and present. Hip hop students from Newave Studios performed several dances that fused Latin and Caribbean styles and got the rest of the festival goers up and dancing too.
The Pennsylvania Chapter of Team Los Abuelos brought their decked-out cars from bygone eras including Volkswagen vans and beetles, and a slew of 1980s Toyotas kept in perfect condition. Many car owners proudly hung Puerto Rican flags from the hoods of their cars.
The theme of this year’s Latin Festival was anti-violence and anti-drug. Organizers said they wanted to bring awareness to the lives lost to drugs and violence and to encourage people to reach out if they know someone struggling with addiction.
“Everyone wants unity and harmony and we all want to get along,” said organizer Fernandez.
Caring Communities set up our own informational booth filled to the brim with flyers, brochures, and Caring Communities-branded trinkets like color-changing cups, beverage cozies, and wallet attachments for cellphones, all popular with those who stopped by for more information. Staff happily answered any questions attendees had and encouraged them to reach out to their local Caring Communities office if they needed our services.
Our reason for attendance was to reach out to the Spanish-speaking population in Northeast Pennsylvania. The population that identifies as “Hispanic or Latino” has increased by approximately 12,500 people since 2010 in Luzerne County alone. According to the CDC, Hispanics/Latinos accounted for about one quarter of all new diagnoses of HIV in the US in 2015, despite representing about 18% of the total US population. The Latinx community is another population that is disproportionately affected by HIV.
Caring Communities has multiple Spanish-speakers on staff to help those who may need testing or case management services but are more comfortable communicating in Spanish. This is all part of an ongoing effort to help the most at-risk populations in Northeast and North Central Pennsylvania in a way that they may feel welcomed, respected, and heard.