Category Archives: Cultural Village

Fiesta Fridays! 2016

NOTE:  Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of Fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003.

For Fiesta 2016 there was a renewed focus on our Cultural Village and what makes it the “Corazon” of our event each year.  We depend on the kindness of the Hispanic community when it comes to pulling this village together.  It is because these community members want to share a bit about their countries of origin that the village is always such a wonderful place.

This year we decided to have a competition to encourage participants to take it up a notch or two.  Word got out quickly when this was announced on social media and we had quite a turnout.  Not to mention, the booths were incredible!  Our cultural village chair and board member, Lui Fernandez, always has something special in mind as he creates the village atmosphere.  This year, he really wanted to encourage the community to sign up early for our 15th anniversary celebration and he decorated a booth with photos from all the previous Fiestas.  It was such a great way, in my opinion, to personalize the village even more!

The winner of the competition was chosen by three anonymous judges who went through the village throughout the day to observe and make notes.  At the end of the day, Mexico won the competition and a $500 prize!  Interestingly, the Mexico booth also has photos displayed all over the tent of past Fiestas!  Great minds…as they say!

Fiesta 2016 was also warmer than the year before!  If you read my post from last week you’ll remember that it was a cold and drizzly day.  This year made up for it with blue skies and warm weather.  It was beautiful…  And because of this, I think that’s why I remember people dancing so much!  We decided to use the gazebo in Linn Park as a Dance Station this yea and got DJ Ivan Correa to host music there.  He is always so wonderful and engaging with people.  He gave dance lessons and would also draw pictures of people who took a quick lesson from him.  Each time I went by there was always a steady stream of people.

Last but certainly not least, we had the McDonalds Fiesta Tour return for a third year thanks to our Title Sponsor, McDonalds!  This year, the tour went through a bit of a makeover with updated colors, design and also some new items on display.

Here are a few more photos from that day – some for how colorful they are and others because they are of family and friends who make Fiesta so much fun because they are there…

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Fiesta Fridays series as much as I’ve enjoyed going through my photos and telling them.  If you are in Birmingham on Saturday, September 30, 2017, I hope to see you at Fiesta for our 15th anniversary…and if you are, SMILE!  I’ll have my camera and you may just end up in my Fiesta photo collection!

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Fiesta Fridays! 2003 to 2006

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.

Fiesta 2003 – My friends Lui Fernandez and Jasmine Reyes dance next to the Main Stage while Susan Daywood, Rei Ramos and Hernan Prado watch and enjoy the music!

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!

Fiesta 2003 – Salsa dancers on the main stage

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.

Entrance to the Cultural Village created by Lui Fernandez – Fiesta 2004

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!

Fiesta board member – Mike Suco – helps his parents, Teresa and Ramon Suco – set up the Cuba booth in the Cultural Village in 2005.

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!

Fiesta 2016 – Some of my Favorite Photos

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Drummer for Los Canarios on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day!  The sky was blue and the temperature reached the low 80s and the sun made itself known throughout the day.  After the constant drizzle of the previous year, this was so welcomed to the Fiesta board, volunteers and especially the patrons!

Approximately 14,000 people made their way to Linn Park in downtown Birmingham for the 14th annual Fiesta event on Saturday, September 24.  My favorite things to do every single year is to walk the park, visiting all the booths and meeting and greeting all the nonprofits, businesses and vendors who come to be a part of this incredible event.  I take their photos, welcome the new folks and catch up with old friends along the way.

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A little girl wearing a traditional Mexican dress gets her nails painted in the Family Village.

One of the highlights of this years event was the competition between countries in the Cultural Village – the heart of Fiesta.  A group of judges went through – anonymously – and voted on the best country booth based on presentation and creativity.   This year the Mexico won the competition and took home $500!  Next year, the stakes will be even higher as the best country booth will walk away with $1,000!

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A collage of photos from past Fiestas adorned the Mexico booth in the Cultural Village. The Mexico booth won the first ever competition of Cultural Village country booths!

By the way…next year will be Fiesta’s 15th year anniversary – our quinceanera…and we have big things planned for this milestone!  Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 30, 2017, for Fiesta 2017 and stay tuned for an event packed year leading up to this great event!

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Mark your calendar for Fiesta 2017!!!!!

Meanwhile…please enjoy some of my favorite photos from this year’s Fiesta!

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Fiesta 2015 Rain or Shine!

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This was the crowd during the last two acts of the night…incredible! Despite the cold!

This was Fiesta’s “lucky” 13th year.  Every year as we (the organizers) approach the event, we always keep our fingers crossed about the weather and every year with the exception of one, the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm.  This year, the outlook started out that way…we kept looking at the forecast and it showed mild temperatures but sunny.  Perfect, you could say!  Then closer to the event, it showed cloudy and a chance of showers.  Then it started raining…

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Two Fiesta patrons in rain gear on their way to the Coca Cola Music Stage.

When you have an outdoor festival, you have to expect the weather will catch up with you at some point.  So for Fiesta’s 13th year, it did.  We thought the rain would stop by noon – that’s when Fiesta “officially” opens, so we were hopeful.  Then the forecast changed to 1 p.m. – and if you were there, you know that didn’t happen.  I think we were just on the wrong side of the road when it came to the rain.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a downpour.  And thankfully, people came out and simply put on hats, rain ponchos or just didn’t care about getting wet.  Incredibly, as the day went on, and the drizzle came and went, people kept coming and enjoying the villages and especially the music.  All in all, I would have to say this was one of our best years!

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Veronica Richey with BB&T Bank threw on a rain poncho and got to work at her booth at Fiesta wearing a Costa Rica hat!

This year’s Fiesta showed us that people love this event and want to be here no matter what.  It also proved to be one of the most diverse crowds I believe we have ever had.  This absolutely thrilled us. This event matters to the Hispanic community and also to the community at large and this was proven with the numbers we saw all day long.  About 10,000 people made it to Fiesta this year!

Personally, I had the best time once I stopped worrying about my soggy hair.  Thank goodness for hair pins!  As I walked through the park and strolled down the Cultural Village with my camera, I grew a little  concerned for the Cultural Village.   Each year these wonderful members of our Hispanic community bring their own personal artifacts and treasures to share with the Fiesta patrons.  The tents helped keep things dry and the rain didn’t seem to affect those who were there.  They just adjusted and pulled the crowds in to share their country stories.

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Los Millos booth at the Food Village – this was early in the day as the food vendors began preparing food for the day. This is where I got the delicious empanadas from Jairo and Lucero Vargas!

So, right after my friends and Latino News owners,  Jairo and Lucero Vargas treated me to empanadas at the Colombian food vendor – Los Millos, I walked through the village and visited my friend Miguel Vilchez who pulled the Peru booth together.  He gave me a red Peruvian hat to wear to take care of my hair later that day – even though he said my hair looked fine – he’s such a gentleman!  Across from Peru was the Mexico booth.  Maria and Luis had pulled together two booths of beautiful Mexican art and pottery.  It was so colorful!  They gave me a Jarrito jug as a gift which is simply beautiful and then poured me a tequila shot and we took selfies.  Next I went to take photos of the Cuba booth where they gave me some Cuban coffee…OMGEEEE!  That was so wonderful and after the tequila, it REALLY warmed me up.  When I tell you how awesome the Cultural Village is, you need to believe me!  Because of the weather, we all huddled closer together under each tent as we made our way through the village and vendors stationed throughout.  It was such a great feeling of friendship and belonging.  It’s the type of feeling I want everyone to experience at Fiesta.

And here I was worried about the rain…

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth.  This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta.  So beautiful!!!

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth. This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta. So beautiful!!!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Cuba booth!  The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table...

Cuba booth! The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table…

Believe it or not...this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta!  Packed a punch!

Believe it or not…this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta! Packed a punch!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot!  Salud!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot! Salud!

A few items from the Peru booth - Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave...sure did help hide my soggy hair!

A few items from the Peru booth – Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave…sure did help hide my soggy hair!

Puerto Rico booth!

Puerto Rico booth!