Latinx Festival 2019 brings together cultures through music, dance, food

For most residents of Boulder County, the Latinx Festival 2019 offered a fun day of music, dance and great food from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. For local Latinos and those from surrounding areas, the joyful expression of culture promised much the same. But national politics marred the scene.

The threat of nationwide immigration raids by the Trump administration caused festival organizers to push back the event. The raids were retracted just a day before the event was scheduled, but the festival was still pushed back by several weeks.

Tamil Maldonado and her husband, Jose Beteta, started the Latinx Festival on Main Street in Longmont in 2016. The couple, who also founded the theater company Barrio E, chose the location for a particular reason.

“In the city of Longmont, Latinos are there,” Maldonado said. “One-third of the population is Latino. Still, (people) didn’t feel welcome in downtown. (We were saying) ‘This belongs to us, as well.’ We want to share and celebrate who we are in the world."

Police estimated the 2016 crowd at 5,000, Maldonado said.

Since then, it has more than tripled: 2019’s festival drew roughly 15,000-20,000 attendees.

The festival in 2018 moved from Longmont to Boulder — a city that is 88 percent non-Hispanic white, according to the U.S. Census. The move came about in an interesting way: Several entities asked the festival to come, including the Boulder City Council, the Boulder Human Rights Commission and the Boulder County Arts Alliance, Maldonado said. The fact that Boulder chose to designate itself a sanctuary city also influenced the decision.

Latinx 2019 and similar efforts are a way to begin to educate the public on the differences among the cultures and arts that fall under the Latino umbrella, Maldonado said.

“People don’t say ‘I’m Latino.’ They say ‘I’m Mexican, I’m Venezuelan, I’m Colombian, I’m Peruvian,’ ” she said. “Diversity … it has so many colors and flavors in our culture."

Yet, as 2019 showed, there is common ground.

“We are all going through the same discrimination,” Maldonado said. “We have values of family, values of friendship, and solidarity is (also) one of the qualities we have.”

by Cindy Sutter