“You get an opportunity to see the beauty of other cultures and learn that it’s something to appreciate.”
The chairman of this year’s event, Mateo R. Espinoza, said the library plays an important role in educating people about different cultures and the importance of diversity.
“The Library, in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, acknowledges the importance of Latinos in our community,” said Espinoza, who is also the supervisor of the library’s Facilities and Operations. “We are able to use the Library as a venue to shed light on important issues within our community. This celebration also allows others to learn about our culture and the impact that we have on society.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized from September 15 through October 15 and helps celebrate Latino heritage and honor the independence of Latin American countries such as: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rico, Honduras, México, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Perú, and Chile.
The theme of this year’s event was Viva La Vida (Live Live) and featured various children’s activities, free health screenings for the general public, a healthy food presentation by El Tipico Restaurant’s Dina Villa, an audience participation Zumba class demonstrated by Elaina Hernández, and performances by Jacob Estrada and Los Mariachi Locos.
Miss Ohio Latina
Ms. Avalos, who beat out more than 40 competitors vying for the title of Miss Ohio Latina in mid-August, said the position provides her an opportunity to serve as a role model. During the library event she read two books to the delight of dozens of children and their parents. The books included La Roja Riding Hood, a bilingual version of the popular child’s story, Little Red Riding Hood, and No More Por Favor.
“I’m very proud and honored to represent Ohio and now working to be a good role model for all Latinos,” said Ms. Avalos, who lives in Westerville, Ohio, but whose parents were born in Jalisco, Mexico. “In the United States they have an image of Latinos that aren’t always the best.
“I hope that I am able to inspire young Latinos in the whole state of Ohio. I want to let them know that if they really want something they can go get it.”
Ms. Avalos is a junior at Ohio State University where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion and Retail, with a minor in business. She said her mother, María Avalos, has always been her role model because “she’s so beautiful and a strong woman who knows what to do in any situation.”
Zumba instructor Elaina Hernández and her infectious enthusiasm had many in attendance joining her for an energetic Zumba session that had participants of all ages exercising to the sounds of the latest Latin beats.
At the urging of her children, Toledo’s Gloria Castillo joined the Zumba session and quickly picked up the dance moves. It wasn’t just the exercise that had Mrs. Castillo excited; she was enjoying all of the daylong activities held at the main library.
“I would like to do something like this every week,” Mrs. Castillo said. “There’s not a lot for my culture in Toledo, but when there is I try to do it.”
One of the most popular activities of the day was a healthy food presentation presented by El Tipico’s Dina Villa, who taught attendees how to make chicken fajitas.
Those in attendance were also treated to free healthy meals of chicken burritos and rice that were served by restaurant staff Angela Ruiz, James Ruiz, and Dominque Campos. The restaurant serves only hormone-free chicken and beef, grows most of its own fruits and vegetables, and also offers vegetarian and vegan friendly meals and use only foods that have no preservatives, said Mrs. Villa.
Other participants included: the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, Adelante - The Latino & Community Resource Center, and Lonnie Nitschke, of Worldwide Photography, who took free postcard style photos of attendees.
The National Latino Police Officers Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter provided free finger printing for all children and students from The University of Toledo College of Medicine’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies conducted health screenings. ProMedica offered a health presentation for youths.