Festival Latinoamericano

A crowd gathers to watch wrestlers from Ultra Championship Wrestling battle it out in the ring during Festival Latinoamericano in Provo on Sept. 2, 2013.

Abraham Hernandez grew up in Provo, the son of parents who immigrated from Mexico. As a child, he remembers feeling like he lived in the United States during school hours and in Mexico when he was at home.

“I felt isolated,” he said. “I didn’t know where I belonged. I wondered: Who am I really?”

Balancing the two cultures and finding a place for himself in the community was hard but proved worth it — now he spends his time helping others do the same.

As the Education Program Coordinator at Centro Hispano, Hernandez works with others to offer free educational classes, legal assessments, walk-in consultations, volunteer opportunities and more through the nonprofit organization.

This week the organization will host its 14th annual Festival Latinoamericano, a cultural event featuring traditional food, music, dance, games and vendors.

Held Sept. 4–7 at the Utah County Historic Courthouse Grounds in downtown Provo, the family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

“Coming to a festival like ours let’s you know you are not alone,” Hernandez said. “It really creates a sense of community. When Latinos see non-Latinos come and care, they are more willing to participate in things like PTA — something simple but critical for our children’s education. It’s moving to see how something like this builds our community.”

This year the organization is encouraging attendees to use the hashtag #festivalprovo while enjoying the event. Hernandez said Centro Hispano staff members plan to use the hashtag to gauge each activity’s popularity as a way to plan for next year.

Festival Latinoamericano started in 2001 and was held at the Boulders Apartment Complex in South Provo. Only about 75 people attended that year. Since then, the festival has grown and maintains an attendance of about 20,000 — some traveling from out of state just to participate.

“We all come in different shapes, sizes and flavors — we can’t be clumped together,” Hernandez said. “But I love seeing [families] interact. The festival has a meet-your-neighbors kind of feel.”

For an event schedule or to learn more, visit http://festivalprovo.com or search Festival Latinoamericano Provo on Facebook.

Keri Lunt Stevens covers Community & Business News in Utah County. Contact her at (801) 344-2556, kstevens@heraldextra.com and on Twitter: @keriinreallife

Keri Lunt Stevens covers Community News in Utah County.

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