Tag Archives: Fiesta

The Ripple Effect and Fiesta Scholarship

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples. – Mother Teresa

When I think of the Fiesta Scholarship Fund, I’ve always thought of ripples.  How many scholarship awards have we made and how many lives have we possibly impacted?  It’s hard to know the ripple effect of these past 18 years but sometimes we get a glimpse into this and that makes me so grateful that Fiesta got started 18 years ago. 

This year, Fiesta was able to award $10,000 in scholarships to 8 Hispanic students.  And this was during a global pandemic!  It was great to be able to make these awards and to meet these students this past weekend at a special dinner.  For me, this is the best part of why we have Fiesta every year.  My friend and fellow Fiesta board member, Lui Fernandez, also gets so excited about these awards.  I love that he is on the scholarship committee and shares his passion at these events. 

After we had our #30 Days of Fiesta celebration in September and October, in lieu of a live event in Linn Park in Birmingham, we ended with the announcement of the Fiesta scholarship recipients.  Our committee chairs, Lui and Phil Sandoval were to make that announcement on October 15th during a Facebook Live event.  We were scheduled to go live at 6 p.m. but Phil had a last-minute conflict and couldn’t make it so it ended up being me and Lui making the announcement.  We also had a problem getting the Fiesta logo to pop up on a large television screen where we had planned to make the announcement.  What a struggle!  We ended up moving from a conference room at GoPro Events to one of their offices.  I watched as Lui, our event Manager Denise Koch, and board members, Silvia Espinosa Laxson and Vanessa Vargas pulled together a backdrop for me and Lui to present in front of in a matter of minutes! 

We ended up going live at 6:30 that night and alternated announcing the scholarship recipients along with their major, school and a quote from their applications.  It was so exciting to be a part of that and I loved watching Lui during this presentation.  He was clearly on cloud 9!  Later we looked at the comments from the Facebook live and it was so sweet and exciting to see how many people tuned in and how many parents commented saying things like “that’s my daughter.”  It makes all the work and effort we put into Fiesta worth every minute of it. 

On Sunday, November 15th, the Fiesta board was able to meet the students and make the check presentations to each of them.  Once again, Lui and I worked together and made the awards presentation and reveled in meeting the students and hearing their stories.  In fact, we asked each of the students to share a little bit about themselves as we waited for our dinner to arrive.  Their stories had me on the brink of tears.  So much gratitude to parents who had worked so hard to get them to this place and so much gratitude to Fiesta for making the awards.  One of the students had been encouraged by her teacher to apply and she was adamant about her filling out the application.  This teacher turned out to be Charity Jackson, former Carver High School Spanish teacher who also served as the Fiesta volunteer coordinator for two years!  I honestly did not know that so it was such a full circle moment for me.  Two of the students have a HICA connection.  One volunteered there and another is currently employed there and was encourage by a staff member to apply. When I sat down to speak to her she said to me – “you look familiar to me.”  That’s when I found out more about her story and told her she probably saw me at some point during last year’s tamale sale!  Another recipient spoke of the sacrifices of his father who came to this country from Venezuela and learned English at the University of Alabama.  He paved the way for his son to have a better life in the US and this young man recognized that, announced it to everyone gathered at the dinner and said, “I’m going to go you one better.”  Loved so much how he recognized his father’s sacrifices for him. 

The final full circle moment came from one of the scholarship recipients that I know.  A young lady who has volunteered for Fiesta over the years and volunteers in the Latino community.  She was the one who made the comment that “I believe in the ripple effect…to be kind and helpful, especially in my Latino community.”  To hear one of the scholarship winners talk about the ripple effect brought everything full circle for me this year.  It was the best way to end our Fiesta celebration until we can do this all over again next year.  I so look forward to adding more ripples to our scholarship story.

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!

Edwina Taylor – Helping People One Smile at a Time

img_3055I got my Cahaba Valley Health Care newsletter in the mail today.  I always like reading about the people who are helped by this wonderful non-profit and also the volunteers involved.  And in this edition of the newsletter – I spotted a photo I took at the See More Smiles Breakfast in 2010!

Let me start with a little background on Cahaba Valley Health Care or CVHC.  This non-profit was founded in 2000 by Edwina Taylor, a hematology and oncology nurse who had worked for decades at UAB Medical Center and then in palliative care at Cooper Green.  This is where Edwina began seeing how difficult it was for the uninsured to access health care.  In 1979 she and her husband adopted a daughter, Emilie, from Guatemala.  Because of her daughter’s background, she began paying more attention to the needs of the Hispanic community.  This reached a peak in the 1990s with the influx of Hispanics to the Birmingham region.  Edwina has told the story many times but I never tire of hearing it because of her enthusiasm and giving heart.  She said if it was hard for people who were born here and spoke the language to access health care, what must it be like for someone who wasn’t born here and doesn’t speak the language.  On top of that, there is the cultural and trust barrier that compounds all of this.

Edwina decided she needed to act on her desire to help the uninsured and with the help of friends and her church – Cahaba Valley – she set out to start a non-profit that offered health screening for the uninsured population with a focus on Hispanics in Jefferson and Shelby Counties.  The latest newsletter already has the dates for the 2017 screenings listed and almost all are at area churches with a Hispanic congregation.  Always happy to see my own church, Prince of Peace Catholic – on the list!  These screenings include vision, dental and blood pressure.  I’ve attended a few of these screenings and I’m amazed at the number of people who come out.  Many people who come to these screenings are in dire need too.  Edwina talks about how if you have a tooth ache, you have a bad day…but what if you have several?  Many of her clients require much care and have no way to access if it weren’t for CVHC,  I even heard one story of someone pulling their own tooth with pliers because of the pain.  I can’t even imagine…

I first met Edwina when I visited their first offices at Cahaba Valley Church along with a friend from an area foundation who was going to present a check to her.  I went along to learn more about her and her organization because of my involvement in the community.  I had actually met her at the United Way Latino Issues Committee but had not had a lot of time to talk to her.  Something about Edwina that I found out early on is that her demeanor is always the same – smiling and positive – ALWAYS!  She is not someone you say “no” to either and she can pull volunteers and collaborators together like no other person I’ve ever known.  Another thing I learned about her is that she is always looking for ways to help more and more people.  She is not satisfied with the status quo and her energy is inspiring to me.  She is the type of person who makes you want to do more.

Earlier I mentioned my photo being in the newsletter advertising the See More Smile Breakfast.  This fundraising event has grown so much since my first breakfast about 8 years ago.  Edwina gets everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – donated and there is no cost to attend.  You are simply asked to make a donation at the end of the breakfast and after Edwina talks, you WANT to donate!  I never attend a See More Smiles breakfast without my camera anymore.  That’s one of the things I’ve learned over the years of working with non-profits …there is always a need for more marketing and PR assistance and a good photo can go a long way!

Speaking of being able to generate volunteers…Edwina many years ago took on the task of creating the Fiesta Health & Wellness Village for us (the Fiesta board).  We had a vision for having all the health care agencies and non-profits in one area at the festival and she took it and ran with it!  At one point, she would just ask us for the registration forms and would report back close to the event who was coming so we could prepare.  We never questioned because we knew that in her hands, the village would be phenomenal…and it always has been.

Edwina speaks to visitors to the Fiesta Health and Wellness Village that she coordinated through 2015.

Edwina speaks to visitors to the Fiesta Health and Wellness Village that she coordinated through 2015.

In April this year, CVHC moved to Cooper Green Hospital.  The ability to serve even more clients in their dental clinic is exciting.  It seems almost like it has come full circle for Edwina though…as a nurse at Cooper Green so many years ago.  She is back where she originally saw the need to serve and is doing just that.

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Fiesta 2016 – Some of my Favorite Photos


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.


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!


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!


Mark your calendar for Fiesta 2017!!!!!

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

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Happy Anniversary Southern Señora!

img_9931September 15th marks the 2nd anniversary of my blog – Southern Señora!  Two years ago I made the decision to start this blog to share what I call “the Southern Hispanic lifestyle” in Birmingham, Alabama with y’all.

It’s been a great outlet for me and a way to share so many things.  The feedback I’ve received has been terrific with encouragement for me to probe a topic a bit deeper and suggestions for other topics.  The list is long and there is definitely enough material to post daily for quite some time!  Now if I could only carve out more time to do that!

I chose September 15th as my start date because that date also marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.  I wanted the date to be significant to me and what better way to kickoff a Hispanic lifestyle blog than on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, right?!  The month (Sept 15 through Oct 15) is ripe with stories to tell – both past and present.  So much to write about!

In the past I’ve been involved and produced a number of events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.  It is a time in the US that we recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans and celebrate their heritage and culture.  Celebrations occur in many ways.  For instance, one year I organized a panel of local Hispanic professionals to discuss that years’ theme and address issues facing the community from their profession’s perspective.  Another year, I organized an event complete with salsa dancing lessons and Mexican food.  These events and several others were well attended because I have always found that people are thirsty for information about Hispanic culture.  These events were also a lot of fun so when you are having fun you tend to learn more!  I always love the immediately feedback.  Questions like… “Are you going to do this again next year?”  “Where can I take salsa dancing lessons for real?”  “How can I get more involved with the Hispanic community?”  “How do you make a tamale?”  The list goes on…but I loved every minute of it and the way it got people thinking about not only light-hearted things like food and dancing, but also serious subjects like access to healthcare and helping to teach someone to speak English.  Connecting people to all these things has always been very fulfilling to me.  This blog is a way for me to continue doing that.

Presently, I am participating in a number of events around town to promote Hispanic Heritage month AND my favorite Hispanic cultural event…Fiesta!  This will be Fiesta’s 14th year and when I think back on the history of this event and those of us who were there as it got started, I remain thrilled that it has made it to its teenage years, so to speak.  This October 1st, I will be on hand at Linn Park at 8 a.m. with my traveler of Starbucks (for the board and committee members) and my camera to document my 14th Fiesta.  Each year there is another favorite photograph that I capture from this event.   Each year I am exhausted by the end of the day (around 11 p.m. that night!)  but also exhilarated by the number of people we reach who come out to learn about Hispanic culture.  Each year I am overwhelmed by the Hispanic community support and those who take the time to come out and share their stories and help make Fiesta a better event.  Each year…I hope I can continue being a part of Fiesta and watch it grow and evolve.

Me and Fiesta Board President - Cristina Almanza - after our last board meeting this week holding one of our Fiesta yard signs. I love seeing these all over Birmingham leading up to the event each year!

Me and Fiesta Board President – Cristina Almanza – after our last board meeting this week holding one of our Fiesta yard signs. I love seeing these all over Birmingham leading up to the event each year!

Happy blog anniversary to me…and Happy Hispanic Heritage Month to all.

Fiesta Night with Los Barons – Part 2

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

It was a beautiful afternoon…the weather was great, sun shining and a slight breeze found its way through the park every so often.  I thought I was arriving at the park early to help Fiesta’s event manager extraordinaire, Denise Koch, put Fiesta flyers in all the cup holders at Regions Park.  I should have known better.  Denise had been hard at work since early that morning on Fiesta Night with Los Barons and had everything under control.  I “did” manage to wrestle a small stack of the flyers away from her and finish up one section so she could take a break.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

Fiesta and the Birmingham Barons partnered for a second year to bring a Latin flair to the ballpark this past August.  Our thanks go out to the wonderful people at the Birmingham Barons, in particular, John Cook, Director of Sales, and Don Leo, Corporate Sales Manager, with the Corporate Partnerships Department, for all they did to make our time there so enjoyable.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta's founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Once again, we had students from Samford University’s Latin American Studies participate in the parade of Latin American flags.  We even had a few sponsors get into the act which thrilled us!  Our sponsors from BB&T and Regions Bank both grabbed flags and made their way around the infield with the students and Fiesta board members.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Next, Don Leo introduced Fiesta and a short video of last year’s event was shown on the big screen.  The video was produced by board member Orlando Rosa with La Jefa Radio Station.  Ever the perfectionist, Orlando mentioned later that he wasn’t completely happy with the video but the rest of us LOVED it!  It definitely got the crowd going and gave them a taste of what to expect on October 3rd!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members was on hand with his son Mikey, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Mike didn’t miss a beat and never lingered on the pitcher’s mound.  He threw out the perfect pitch so fast we almost missed it!  Reminded me of the early days of Fiesta when Mike would just get things done!  It thrilled us to have Mike and his family with us that night to celebrate and reminisce about Fiesta, especially for some of the newer board members and sponsors who had never met him but heard a few of us talk about him with such admiration over the years.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

As always, we had the opportunity to talk to interested people attending the Barons game about Fiesta and encourage them to get advance tickets to the event.  Ronald McDonald came by to represent our Title Sponsor, McDonalds, and had pictures made with kids young and old.  I always love it when adults want their picture made with Ronald!  I had mine made with him last year!

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

Don’t forget…Fiesta is Saturday, October 3rd from noon to 8 p.m. in downtown Linn Park!  Meanwhile, here are a few more pics from our night with Los Barons!


Mike Suco and his son pose with the baseball before the ceremonial first pitch is thrown.


We had to get our photo with Ronald too! Left to right – Ronald, me, Vanesa Vargas and Freddy Rubio.


Orlando pulled double duty at the game with a live remote, along with his wife and co-worker, Maria – better known on air as La Chikis!


Parting shot of the Regions Field Birmingham sign as I was walking to my car after the game. This is such a beautiful facility. If you’ve never been, you have to check it out!


The parade of Latin American flags begins and is lead by the Stars and Stripes of the USA! That’s Fiesta Board member, Vanesa Vargas with the Fiesta sign in front!

Thrifting Treasures


No matter where I go, I look for thrift stores and these little treasures were waiting for me at a thrift store in Denver, Colorado this past June!

You know the saying…one man’s (or woman’s) trash is another’s treasure…well, it’s just amazing what you can find when you go on the thrift store hunt!

My sister Kanista, who lives in North Carolina, really got me hooked on thrift store shopping.  Her normal Saturday routine is to hit her local thrift stores and she definitely has an eye for vintage and unique!  When I visited her last year, she took me to her favorite places and we had a blast loading up on great clothing pieces and a few household items.  Her home is filled with beautiful finds.  Now, since I’ve started my own Saturday morning hunts, we text each other with photos of our latest finds!

In Birmingham, there are a few thrift stores that I frequent.  The two Salvation Army stores – one on Green Springs and one on Highway 150 in Hoover – are two of my favorites.  I especially love hitting them on Wednesdays when everything is 25% off.  On other days, they have a color system and clothing is 50% off.  Either way, you get a great bargain!  Another favorite is Lovelady Thrift store and I never fail to walk out of this store with something special.  I’ve been lucky enough to find a few Groupons too for $40 worth of merchandise for $20!

What I’ve been most surprised about lately is how much Mexican pottery I’ve been finding at these stores.  From a previous post, you know about my love of Talavera pottery – well, I’ve been adding to my collection with several smaller items.  I also keep an eye out for Fiesta dishes and my latest find was a large yellow platter from around the 1960s.  Couldn’t believe my eyes when I stumbled upon it at Lovelady a few months ago!

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IMG_7548Another place I love is a little place in Pelham called Treasures.  I bought a mink coat there last year – but that’s another story for another post…  Meanwhile, I found a really interesting Talavera piece there recently.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was until I got home and took a good look at it.  Turns out…it’s a soap dish!  I placed in my powder room which has quite a few Talavera pieces adorning it.

Some other items I’ve found are Mexican serape blankets that I’ve used quite often at Fiesta events.  I found one huge and colorful one at Alabama’s Thrift in Center Point last year.  It’s been quite useful for Fiesta promotion events to cover a table and set the scene for TV promos and other media events.


This is the first time I’ve found a Mexican blanket like this one. Usually they are just striped and very colorful.

These plates were found at Alabama’s Thrift in Alabaster.  I couldn’t believe my luck when I found not one plate, but three!  Very beautiful and the perfect addition to my family room coffee table.  A quick note about the Alabama Thrift Stores…they also have a color discount system and so it makes “the hunt’ all the more fun.

Meanwhile…tomorrow is Saturday and I’m itching to get out and see what I can find…so stay tuned!!!

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Fiesta…one thousand pictures later…

Fiesta 2014 is now a great memory for the board and planning committee…it was an incredible day!  Last Saturday, September 27th, we enjoyed great weather, huge attendance, many new vendors and participants, and reconnected with so many long time amigos!  We reconfigured our set-up in Linn Park and it really made a difference in the attendee traffic.  Everywhere I looked, there were people and families enjoying the event, eating delicious food and sitting on the beautiful green grass.

Our title sponsor, McDonalds, brought an incredible exhibit – The Fiesta Tour – a 53-foot long traveling mobile unit that pays tribute to Latin GRAMMY winners – to Birmingham for us to enjoy. Every time I went by the exhibit, there were crowds – such a beautiful sight!  The Santiago brothers, Santiago and Russ, have been wonderful partners to Fiesta this year and we are so grateful for their presence!

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The McDonald’s Fiesta Tour entrance. What an incredible exhibit!

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A dress worn by Gloria Estefan and a guitar owned by Carlos Santata – just a few of the items in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour on display.

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Sombrero belonging to Mexican artist – Vicente Fernandez – in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour.

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Ronald McDonald gets anchored in Linn Park, in the Family Village.

I downloaded more than one thousand photos last Sunday afternoon.  It always amazes me how many photos I take at Fiesta each year.  And yet, there are always shots I miss and think about later.  Oh!  And this doesn’t include the photos I take with my iPhone!   One of my favorite elements this year was having the Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama participate with the presentation of colors, pledge of allegiance, Girl Scout promise (in English and Spanish), and finally parade around the park with the flags of the Latin countries while dressed in native costumes!  It was absolutely a BEAUTIFUL sight!  In fact, I do believe (aside from the music acts), that the Girl Scouts were the most photographed group of the day!  The magnificent Marisela Mendez, the Hispanic Initiative Manager for GSNCA, worked for many weeks to pull the girls and their families together for Fiesta.  This Dominican woman is a “powerhouse” and the community is lucky to have her working for Hispanic girls in our region.  Her heart is all about connecting these little girls with Girl Scouts and she will do everything possible to ensure they can have the Girl Scout experience in their lives.

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This precious little one lead the Girl Scouts around the park in the parade of flags, dressed in a beautiful white mariachi outfit.

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The Girl Scouts pose in front of their booth at Fiesta.

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The Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama during the flag ceremony – presentation of colors.

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Talking to one of the Girl Scouts after the parade of flags…this little one was so precious and apparently I wasn’t saying her name the right way – she kept correcting me! (Photo credit: Cristina Almanza)

I’ve pulled a few of my favorite photos from Fiesta to share on the blog.  If you were at Fiesta and took some photos, please post them on the Fiesta facebook page!  We would love to see what you captured!!!

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This little one kept twirling to the music next to the main stage. Such joy!

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This little girl saw me taking photos of the girl in the pink and decided she wanted to twirl and have her picture taken too!

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Sugar Skull faces at Fiesta! These young ladies were popular – everyone wanted to have their pictures taken with them!

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Got to hang out with my daughter, Anna Marie, for part of the day. She is always so helpful when I’m making my photography rounds in the park.

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Dancers on the stage…they certainly drew a crowd!

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Running into Ricardo and Aimee Aparicio was the best!Reconnecting with long time friends is one of the joys of Fiesta for me. Ricardo was there when Fiesta was started.

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On stage with El Dasa! Great energy during his entire performance!

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El Dasa’s surprise meet and greet with a young girl battling cancer – I don’t think there was a dry eye in the trailer when this happened.

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A crowd shot from the stage as El Dasa performs…

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It’s always fun to run into Clark Scott and Larry Gay at Fiesta. They take some amazing photos each year!

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Crowds were massive this year at Fiesta 2014!

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Traditional Mexican dresses for sale at Fiesta.

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Two of the hardest working women at Fiesta this year – board members Vannessa Vargas and Cristina Almanza! They absolutely ROCK!

Countdown to Fiesta 2014!

1512135_10204822064940779_4302687539356264370_oThe 12th annual Fiesta – Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, will take place this Saturday, September 27th in Birmingham’s Linn Park!  What a journey this has been!  I was a founding board member of this event 13 years ago as a member of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Business Council (HBC).  The event was created as a way to award scholarships to Hispanic students in the state.  To date we’ve awarded over $50,000 in scholarships and hope that amount will continue to grow as we grow the event.

Fiesta was also created to showcase the best of Hispanic culture and to show that not everyone who speaks Spanish is Mexican. Back when the event was started, that was quite the issue.  But another founding board member, Mike Suco, said it best…he said, “I’m Cuban, but it doesn’t mean I eat salsa!” That quote has stuck with me all these years.  There are so many stereotypes surrounding the Hispanic community in the Birmingham region.  Fiesta exists to help dispel many of those by bringing the Birmingham Latino community together to showcase the best of what each country offers.  To me, it’s the heart of what Fiesta offers to Birmingham and the state.

I remember the first Fiesta in 2003 like it were yesterday…we were so excited about the event but thought we would only have an attendance record of about 2,000 people max. Imagine our surprise when we had about almost 7K people come through!  I remember walking through Linn Park that day, snapping pictures (as the “official” Fiesta photographer), and being absolutely giddy – along with the other board members – about the number of people we were seeing come through!  It was clear to us then that this event was not only something that the community needed, it was something the community was embracing as well!

One of my favorite aspects of Fiesta each year is taking photographs. I get to see and photograph people reconnecting, sharing stories and making new connections.  I remember the first year taking pictures with film!  I think I took about 15 rolls of pictures that year.  Now, with digital photography and all its capabilities, I average about 1,000 pictures each year!  And while I love going through my photos at the end of the day…I LOVE seeing what other photographers capture at Fiesta these days.  It’s great to flip through Facebook and see Fiesta photos each year.  More proof that Fiesta is an event NOT to miss!

Hope you will come out this year – our 12th year – and experience what Fiesta has to offer.  One special note – McDonalds is our Title Sponsor this year!  And they are bringing their Fiesta Tour to Linn Park.  Such a treat and something you won’t want to miss – I saw the tour at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) in Chicago a few years ago and was so impressed!  The Fiesta Tour showcases Latin artists such as Gloria Estefan, Selena and Celia Cruz.  You really need to see this!  We are forever grateful to Birmingham McDonald’s owner Santiago Negre, for making this possible!

Tickets are $5 in advance and $8 at the gate. Fiesta starts at noon and runs through 8 p.m.  See you there!

Here are a few shots of Fiesta through the years…

Fiesta 2004 - then President Mike Suco speaks to the media during Fiesta's 2nd year.

Fiesta 2004 – then President Mike Suco speaks to the media during Fiesta’s 2nd year.

Fiesta 2008 - Wrestling makes an appearance at Fiesta with the Blue Demon!

Fiesta 2008 – Wrestling makes an appearance at Fiesta with the Blue Demon!

Fiesta 2008 - getting a hug from my Cuban friend Lizette at the Cuban booth in the Cultural Village.

Fiesta 2008 – getting a hug from my Cuban friend Lizette at the Cuban booth in the Cultural Village.

Fiesta 2008 - one of my most favorite photos from Fiesta and most often used in Fiesta advertising.  The colors are incredible!

Fiesta 2008 – one of my most favorite photos from Fiesta and most often used in Fiesta advertising. The colors are incredible!

Fiesta 2010 - with Fiesta Board member, Chris Miller when the event was held at Regions Park in Hoover, AL

Fiesta 2010 – with Fiesta Board member, Chris Miller when the event was held at Regions Park in Hoover, AL

Fiesta 2010 - in front of the Coca-Cola/McDonalds Main Stage with my daughter, Anna Marie.

Fiesta 2011 – in front of the Coca-Cola/McDonalds Main Stage with my daughter, Anna Marie.