Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival returns to downtown Dayton

Contributing writer Victoria Rivera gives her review of the 20th annual Hispanic Heritage Festival, hosted at RiverScape MetroPark. Photo courtesy of Rivera.

Victoria Rivera | Contributing Writer 

Being a Puerto Rican here at the University of Dayton has been amazing because the student body is extremely diverse and welcoming. Apart from that, the Latinx community is huge at UD, from Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, Hondurans and many more. Although National Hispanic Heritage Month is not every month, the Hispanic culture is present year-round throughout the students and faculty.

On Saturday, Sept. 18, the city of Dayton hosted its annual Hispanic Heritage Festival at the RiverScape MetroPark. This was the 20th year celebrating the festival during National Hispanic Heritage Month with a variety of Latin music and delicious food. As soon as I heard that there was going to be a Hispanic festival, I knew that I had to go no matter what. 

I would have never thought that there would be such a vast number of Hispanics here at Dayton, but this festival showed me that the Latinx community is present everywhere in the world. My friends and I arrived just in time to see the parade, which was an amazing experience because UD students were part of it. We saw a car representing each Hispanic country and I immediately felt like I was back home. I saw how happy everyone looked and I could definitely see how proud all of us are of being Latinx.

In this moment I realized that I was not alone, and that I had a huge community here in this new place I call home. 

After the parade ended, we were extremely hungry, so my friends and I went to look for food. Let me tell you, it was extremely hard to decide between so many varieties of Latin food. The festival had food from Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Mexico and many more countries. We also got to experience traditional dance demonstrations from Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico. The event also provided interactive salsa lessons and Zumba classes for free as well as demonstrations of Hispanic art, cooking and music. 

I can definitely say that the food was amazing and made me extremely homesick. My favorite food in the world, which is a Puerto Rican dish called Mofongo, was available at the festival, and in all of my time here in Ohio I have never been happier. 

One of the things that I missed most about home was the music, and the performers did not disappoint. Artists like Charlie Aponte, John Del Piano and El Combo from Chicago, Christian Nieves from Puerto Rico, Cincinnati-based band Daglio and the Dayton Salsa Project all performed at the festival. The music ranged from salsa to merengue to bachata and many other Latinx genres. The group of Puerto Ricans that went with me screamed from the top of their lungs when the group of Puerto Rican performers were on stage.

If it was not known already, people definitely noticed at that point how proud we were to be there and represent our country. 

This experience was one of many others that are part of the National Hispanic Heritage Month, and UD has had many events in order to celebrate with our student body. Most of those events are hosted by the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center. Events include lunch, mass, keynote addresses, film screenings and dance lessons amongst many others. I attended the Latinx MEC Day lunch as well, which was a taste of home and made me extremely happy. 

The University of Dayton does an amazing job of making sure that our Latinx culture is celebrated and that we have activities that make us feel as if we were home. Even if you are not of Hispanic roots or descent, you are always welcome to our community.

If you haven’t attended any of the activities, you still have the chance to do so. Go check out MEC’s Instagram page to see the rest of their events and to stay connected to your Hispanic Heritage throughout this month.

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