Students and members of the Conway community gathered to celebrate Hispanic culture and community during the second-annual Amigo Fest Sept. 15 at the Student Center Amphitheater as part of UCA’s observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Amigo Fest included booths representing Hispanic organizations, live entertainment — including a performance by award-winning musician Jacob Flores — activities for kids and a health fair provided by UCA nursing student volunteers.
“We hope to provide a family-friendly event that features educational and entertainment offerings that highlight National Hispanic Heritage Month. Also, it is a great opportunity to celebrate our beautiful and diverse campus community,” said Ericka Gutierrez, Latino outreach coordinator in the Office of Diversity and Community, who helped organize the event.
As part of the health fair, attendants could get several healthcare tests provided free of charge by volunteer UCA nursing students. Among the tests offered were pulse, blood pressure, glucose level, cholesterol, weight and waist measurements.
“It’s important to make people aware of their cholesterol and blood pressure before they [are forced to]go to the hospital,” senior nursing student Briana Whisenhunt said, emphasizing the necessity of primary prevention in keeping people healthy.
Sophomore Christina Bowen, an occupational therapy student who was giving out information to attendants, said, “It’s extremely important that we’re diverse, because we want our field to be more diverse.”
Displays depicting prominent people of Hispanic heritage were exhibited at the festival. The displays were made by Morrilton High School Spanish Club students. They recognized prominent people like Pope Francis, labor leader Caesar Chavez, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, baseball legend David Ortiz, pop star Bruno Mars and many others.
Another organization that was present at the festival was the Faulkner County League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, which was giving out information on resources for immigrants in the Central Arkansas community.
The entertainment at Amigo Fest included performances by Mariachi Viva Jalisco, a Little Rock-based mariachi band that played classic favorites like “Jarabe Tapatió” and more modern selections like Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Flores, who performed on American Idol, also used this format during his performance, playing standards like “Cielito Lindo” and covering MGMT’s “Kids.”
Valdivia Dance Group performed several dances, mixing traditional dancing with Zumba moves.
There were many activities for kids at the festival, including bounce houses, hula hoops, coloring books, hopscotch and Big Poppa Bubble, a local professional bubble performer.
Christen Reyes, a UCA alumna involved in the Latino Student Association and teacher at St. Joseph, said she brought 15 of her students to the festival to involve them in Hispanic culture. For many of the students, it was their first taste of authentic Hispanic food, music and culture, Reyes said.
“Its great to see the Conway community coming together and celebrating Hispanic culture,” Reyes said.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual event that begins Sept. 15, marking the date of independence for many Latin-American countries. Every President since Richard Nixon has made a proclamation designating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Photo by Taylor Sone