Hispanic Heritage Day fest at Capitol welcomes all

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Hispanic Heritage Day fest at Capitol welcomes all

9:35 a.m. PDT September 28, 2015

“Buenos dias,” said Martin Zarzar, his voice echoing in the open rotunda of the Oregon Capitol.

Zarzar, an internationally recognized musician born in Peru, addressed hundreds of people at the Dia de la Hispanidad, or Hispanic Heritage Day, celebration Saturday.

“Hispanics are a big part of this country,” Zarzar said. “I see many faces, many different colors, and it is beautiful.”

He and fellow emcee Edna Vazquez, a singer famous worldwide for her mariachi and folklore music, spoke at the opening ceremony of the event.

Hispanic Heritage Day is part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in the United States, when people recognize Spanish speakers’ contributions to the country and celebrate the group’s history and culture.

The free, family-friendly event focused on the history, culture, tradition, technology and music of Hispanics. Those who were not native Spanish speakers were welcomed and included in the celebration, which focused on the contributions of all Spanish speakers.

There were costume displays from more than 20 Hispanic countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Spain, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay and Cuba. Additionally, there were children’s activity tables, a scavenger hunt, a children’s choir, ballet performances, a tribute to elders and Spanish master-guitar players.

Beginning at 10:45 a.m., the Woodburn High School Mariachi Band played and sang seven songs as people entered the Capitol. During the opening ceremony, state representatives and public figures spoke and welcomed all in attendance. The rotunda was filled, standing room only.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and other state and local officials spoke.

“Hispanics are not a race. You are a people. You have a culture,” Courtney said. “We are here today to honor that culture.”

Courtney said Spanish speakers have lived in Oregon since long before it was recognized as a state and that their influence on the state and country is significant.

As of June, there were approximately 41 million native Spanish speakers in the United States and an additional 11.6 million who were bilingual, putting the United States ahead of Colombia (48 million) and Spain (46 million), according to the Instituto Cervantes. The United States is second to Mexico, which has 121 native Spanish speakers, according to the report.

Because of this, organizers of Oregon’s Hispanic Heritage Day emphasized the importance of putting Hispanic people at the forefront of national priorities.

Matias Trejo De Dios, one of the primary organizers of the event, said Hispanic people are a large source of benefits in our society.

“We want to show society we are ready to play in the big leagues of culture,” he said.

Trejo De Dios is the executive director for the Insituto de Cultura Oregoniana, which promotes Spanish-speaking cultures in Oregon and the United States, using multilingualism as a common form of prosperity.

He said this is the first year the celebration has been so large and involved things such as the Army march and the tribute for the elders.

“Maybe in the future… there will be a new reality,” Trejo De Dios said. “We are making history here.”

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

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