NOTE; Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of Fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003.
Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage is 15 years old this year! I’ve been spending a lot of time going through old files and photos and reliving the early years of this festival. Getting a festival like this started was a lot of work and yet those of us who were there at the beginning really didn’t know how big this event would become – or how long it would last! These photos and document revealed so much history and so many people involved for all these years. As I was reliving moment through photos, I was also recalling stories and my personal thoughts. So as we get closer to our 15th anniversary this year, I decided to begin posting a photo each Friday with a little story – I’m calling these “Fiesta Friday” photos on Facebook and Instagram. It occurred to me though that there is more to tell about some of these photos and the people involved and the best way to do this is on my blog.
So this post will be about the photos I’ve already posted from 2003 to 2006. There are so many photos to choose from too! I started taking the photos at Fiesta the first year never imagining that I would become the official “unofficial” photographer of the event. I was using film and switched to digital a few years later but these are the photos that really stick out to me of the thousands that I’ve taken.
2003 – Fiesta’s first year… I was at the main stage – the Coca Cola main stage and found a group of friends from the Hispanic Business Council (HBC) on the side of the stage dancing and having a great time. It was getting close to the final acts and everyone was so happy about the success of our first ever event! We had expected about 2,000 people to come through but when the numbers were finally counted, we had about 7,000 attendees our very first year! Overwhelming would be an appropriate word to describe our feelings that day. I snapped this photo of Jasmine Reyes dancing with a young man. Behind her are Susan Daywood with the City of Birmingham and a member of the HBC, Rei Ramos with the HBC and Hernan Prado, also with the HBC. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the young man Jasmine was dancing with would become a huge part of Fiesta. Luis “Lui” Fernandez is a current board member and has been instrumental in creating the “heart” of Fiesta – the Cultural Village. He took it from a few posters to a group of community members excited about portraying their respective countries and sharing this information with Fiesta guests each year. When he is in charge of something, I never worry about how it will turn out because Lui has a special talent in creating something to remember!
2004 -Fiesta’s second year – This photo was taken from the Coca Cola Main Stage and is of two dancers. They drew quite the crowd early in the day that year. Their dancing was on point along with the DJ playing salsa music. I was taken by the pure joy of the dance that they shared with Fiesta guests that day. This photo was used in many of the early marketing and advertising we used of Fiesta to potential sponsors and on our website.
2004 – Another photo from Fiesta’s second year is of the entrance to the Cultural Village. You’ve already read how much I admire and respect Lui Fernandez’s talent and this particular year, he decided to create an actual entrance to the village! I like to say that this was the year the Cultural Village really came to life! It was the year that music broke out all over the village and people were dancing on the sidewalk and there was always a steady crowd of people walking through to experience this community driven village. Lui created the entrance with the logo and before the event opened, he added flags from all the Hispanic countries to the white posts which made the entrance even more colorful. It was such a beautiful sight!
2005 – Fiesta’s 3rd year – This is such a favorite photo of mine because it features Fiesta board member, Mike Suco with his parents – Teresa and Ramon Suco. Mike’s mother, Teresa, found out that Cuba was NOT represented the year before in the cultural village and she was not going to let that happen that particular year! She took it upon herself to create a beautiful Cuba booth along with her husband and as you can see in this photo – her son, Mike too! Teresa and Ramon Suco fled Cuba under the Castro regime in 1962, shortly after they were married and came to the US not knowing the language or anyone and made a great life for themselves and their children. Mr.Suco worked his way to District Supervisor at Big B Drugs while Teresa Suco became a Professor of Spanish at Jacksonville State University. I remember the first year I was President of Fiesta, Mike told me his mother asked about me and wanted to make sure I was doing all right and he was helping me enough! I always felt we had a special bond because we shared the same name. Such lovely people…
2006 – Fiesta’s 4th year – I had been photographing Fiesta all day and was trying to head over to the VIP area to grab a quick bite to eat when I saw Cultural Village (CV) Chair, Lui Fernandez rush over to me. He excitedly told me I needed to get to the CV stage right away and get some pictures! Of course, I followed him right over and there on the stage were the cutest children dressed in traditional Mexican costumes dancing traditional Mexican dances! Their faces were so sweet too! I remember thinking they seemed so shy and yet they were smiling and dancing their little hearts out for the crowd that had gathered. This was the year we added the CV stage and I remember there was quite a bit of activity with other dance performances and even a short play in Spanish! I’m just so grateful that Lui saw me when he did and told me to get to the stage or I would have missed this performance. This became one of my favorite memories of Fiesta in 2006 – seeing the sweet faces of these children and seeing my friend, Lui’s face, beaming from a distance as he watched this take place…
More to come so please come back every Friday through September 30, 2017!