Shooting victims honored at GR Hispanic festival

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Friday marked the 42nd annual Hispanic festival in Grand Rapids. 

“We have never been before, but our family is here visiting, and we figured this would be nice to come see,” said Walter Jordan, as he stood in line to grab a taco. 

Jordan is one of 2,000 people expected to attend the three-day festival at Calder Plaza. 

“It’s not just Mexican, it’s Dominican, Puerto Rican, everybody. I think it’s a beautiful thing because variety is the spice of life,” said Lisa Puente, who attended the festival.

This year’s festival was a bit more somber than previous years because it followed ICE raids across the country and a mass shooting in El Paso Texas, where the Latinx community was targeted.

“I think it’s a really sensitive time for what’s going on in our country,” Puente said.

While the festival normally focuses on having pride in your heritage, Friday organizers made sure to take a moment to honor people killed in recent tragedies across the nation. 

A photo of people at a vigil at Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival on Aug. 9, 2019.
A photo of people at a vigil at Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival on Aug. 9, 2019.

“People have tried to make us not feel welcome and not feel at home,” said Bo Torres with the Hispanic Center of West Michigan as he stood on stage. “Remember Dayton, Ohio. Remember El Paso, Texas. Remember the events that happened at the California Garlic Festival and think about how we as a community can come together.”

Organizers say considering those tragedies and hateful messages about the Latinx community, they wanted to make sure the recent tragedies didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the festival.

Event planners worked with several police agencies and a private security team to ensure safety. They also had an evacuation plan in place.

Organizers say this is about standing tall in the face of adversity and being proud of who you are.

“We cannot let fear win,” Torres said. “We can face the issues. We can face all the language they use against us and turn it into something positive.”

The Hispanic festival continues through 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

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