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Noche Cultural draws in hundreds for a night of Latino culture and heritage

By Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick The Register-Guard

Posted Jul 20, 2019 at 7:36 PMUpdated Jul 21, 2019 at 8:45 PM

Young dancers in matching, brightly colored outfits pulled the ends of their skirts up over their head and back down as they clicked their boots to the music for a crowd of around 400 people Saturday evening at Noche Cultural.

“Here (in the U.S.) we see a lot of very negative things about Mexico,” said Jessica Zapata, one of the event’s organizers.

She gestured to the stage where the dancers performed.

“But I see it like this.” The group performing, Folklorico Ballet México en la Piel Academia, was one of many groups showcasing Latino traditions throughout the seven-hour event at Island Park in Springfield. Noche Cultural is an evening for celebrating Latino heritage and organized entirely by Eugene-Springfield area volunteers. There are between 33,000 and 35,000 residents in Lane County who identify as Hispanic, but events celebrating the various cultures’ richness are sparse, said event chairman Antonio Huerta.

“There is a responsibility to create spaces for cultural expression where youth can witness traditions relevant to their cultural heritage,” Huerta said. “Youth who don’t otherwise have experience to see themselves in the community.”

Through art workshops, musical performances, dance competitions, raffles and food trucks, the event drew and engaged people of different ages and backgrounds.

“We thought it would be a good family day,” Evelyn Quezada, a Springfield resident, said as her family of four stood in line to hit a piñata.

Quezada, who came because of the advertised kids’ activities, said events such as Noche Cultural “bring people together.”

It’s Noche Cultural’s fourth year and it grows a little in size every time, Zapata said. The event was run by 24 bilingual volunteers. It can be difficult to wrangle that many volunteers capable of helping in Spanish and English in the middle of the summer, said volunteer coordinator Patricia Toledo, but she was happy with who came out to help.“It was a very good response from the community,” Toledo said.

Zapata hopes to see the event continue to grow and continue to present a piece of Latino culture to people in the Eugene-Springfield area.

“I’m very happy to see people of all ages and from all different countries,” Zapata said. “It’s beautiful to see that they are learning about the Latino culture.”

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