Monserrat Catano, 8, (right) holds her dress while waiting to perform with Los Reyos del Sol during the annual Cheyenne Hispanic Festival on Saturday, June 3, 2017 in downtown Cheyenne. WTE/File
Dancers from Las Angelitas Unidas y Los Rayos del Sol perform during the annual Cheyenne Hispanic Festival at Cheyenne Depot Plaza on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Cheyenne. WTE/File

Monserrat Catano, 8, (right) holds her dress while waiting to perform with Los Reyos del Sol during the annual Cheyenne Hispanic Festival on Saturday, June 3, 2017 in downtown Cheyenne. WTE/File
Dancers from Las Angelitas Unidas y Los Rayos del Sol perform during the annual Cheyenne Hispanic Festival at Cheyenne Depot Plaza on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Cheyenne. WTE/File
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
This isn’t just another fiesta.
Thank the new organizers, Jessica Fernandez-Medina and Denise Garcia, for overhauling the Cheyenne Hispanic Festival and turning it into not just a celebration of Hispanic heritage, but a significant educational and supportive event for the Hispanic and non-Hispanic community alike.
First, there’s its mission statement – “To promote, educate and celebrate the Hispanic culture through community involvement and enrichment.”
Of these priorities, the greatest emphasis lies in education.
“The more education that people of other cultures have about it, I think the more understanding and the more accepting they will be,” Garcia said about racial stereotypes toward Hispanic members of the community. “You sometimes get a negative connotation that goes along with some things.
“When you have an event like this, where everybody’s celebrating, everybody’s uplifting and everybody’s learning things, I just think it kind of helps shift that to a more accurate description of what we’re doing and what we’re trying to be.”
On the surface, it’s quite the celebration, one that seemingly the entire community plans to take part in on Sept. 10 in the Depot Plaza. Witness Los Royas del Sol mariachi band, different Hispanic musical acts from around the region, as well as a performance from local traditional dance company Las Angelitas Unitas.
Throw in traditional Mexican cuisine, an ArtHaus loaded with artists of Hispanic descent, local vendors, a jalapeño eating contest and a car show, courtesy of Capital City Car and Bike Club, and this day is well on its way to solidifying itself as a significant event for the city and its residents.
Inside the Cheyenne Depot will be a space for participants to set up ofrendas, though they will need to register for a space ahead of time by emailing cheyennehispanicfestival307@gmail.com.
Within the Depot walls, just above live demonstrations on how to make tortillas and arepas, wafts the rich sensation of home cooked beans, clashing with outside air coated in the sharp scent of roasting chiles.
Arrive at the right time, and the sound of the Grito Contest will rattle your auditory senses, too.
Another one of the biggest changes comes from expanding the scope of the event to encompass not just Mexican cultures, but also feature traditional Colombian, Peruvian, Cuban, Honduran, Guatemalan and other Latin cultures.
“What we heard from the community is that they felt that we were just focusing on the Mexican community, and we weren’t really focusing on all the Latinx culture,” Fernandez-Medina said. “We want to make that change. We want our people from Honduras or people from Venezuela, from Peru, from Colombia, to feel welcome as part of this community.”
Outside, children can carry passports to receive stamps from different countries by visiting stations located throughout the Plaza and along 15th Street. The educational program was created to encourage kids to learn more about the different cultures in their community.
With other entities around the city participating in the festival with their own events, it’s beginning to look like the Hispanic Festival, though important in the past, is integrating with the community more than ever.
The Laramie County Library will host a series of Hispanic Festival events, one of which will be a Spanish language reading of children’s books on Sept. 7. The Wyoming State Museum is setting up 10 tables beginning on Sept. 1, where people can register to leave personal items that pertain to their Hispanic culture for others to view and learn about through Oct. 16.
“This is a new thing. It’s a new partnership,” Elizabeth DeGreiner, supervisor of exhibits and programs for the Wyoming State Museum, said. “We have been wanting to partner with Hispanic Fest and really start opening up the museum to community organizations and community groups that are doing stuff around here. Just trying to be a part of that and open up our space to have some new and different voices in the museum.”
Military members stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, some coming from Hispanic cultural backgrounds, will serve as volunteers and security. Fernandez-Medina believes this will aid in exposing some of the younger attendees to quality role models.
In addition to the celebratory events, there will also be important community services provided for attendees.
Roadmap to Health, a nonprofit mobile health screening program, will have a mobile unit set up at the festival, offering free health screenings, like cholesterol checks, blood pressure readings and basic medical advice in regard to positive lifestyle adjustment. These services will be offered in both Spanish and English languages.
The American Red Cross will also have a tent providing similar services.
But the two events kicking off the festival are some of the most important.
At La Noche De Celebración, to be held on Sept. 9 at the Cheyenne Civic Center, Mayor Patrick Collins will read a proclamation designating September as Hispanic Heritage Month in Cheyenne.
Following his announcement, the Hispanic Festival will announce the two high school students that are to receive the organization’s inaugural college scholarship. Funds were acquired through this year’s festival sponsors.
The two students were selected based on essays they submitted to the organization about their heritage while growing up in Cheyenne.
Much of these changes were made with help from the city of Cheyenne Community Recreation and Events Department. Fernandez-Medina and Garcia worked closely with Jason Sanchez, director of Community Recreation and Events, to restructure the festival.
Fernandez-Medina even said Sanchez joked that, in a way, it’s like the inaugural year all over again, despite the festival having made an impact for many years now.
It’s that new.
“We were really focused on making sure we’re bringing a lot of educational components to the festival,” Sanchez said. “Trying to work with the community to honor a couple of students with scholarships. We wanted to make sure that we really did a good job doing our due diligence and explaining the culture.
“Not just having a party, but really explaining the ‘why’ behind all of the things that we do.”
Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at wcarpenter@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.
Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at wcarpenter@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.
What: 12th Cheyenne Hispanic Festival
When: Sept. 10, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. 
Where: Cheyenne Depot Plaza, 1 Depot Square.
Cost: Free.
Contact: cheyennehispanicfestival307@gmail.com
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