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LYNN — Hundreds gathered in the Lynn Common Saturday for the city’s annual Latino Festival, an all-day celebration featuring traditional dancing, music, and cuisine from a variety of Central American, South American, and Caribbean cultures.
The annual event is organized by Without Borders Magazine and centers around equity and inclusion of all Latin American cultures, said Without Borders Operations Manager Dulce Gonzaléz.
“The Latino Festival is really about equity and inclusion of every country that is in Latin America. We try to bring as many artists as we can because that is Lynn. That is our North Shore area, and we want to be representative of everybody, so it’s a pleasure to do what I can to make sure we have them here,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said that Without Borders strove to make this year’s festival unique, bringing in new performers from Bolivia and Puerto Rico, while maintaining traditions such as the dancing horses.
“We try to be very unique. Every year, we try to bring different artists and groups. This year, we have the group from Bolivia that’s presenting for the first time in Lynn and the first time in Massachusetts. They’re very new to this area. They’ve been presenting in New York, New Jersey, but they’ve never been here, so for us to say that Lynn is the first city to bring them in, I think that’s a huge pride,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got the dancing horse show that is a hit every year, we have the Puerto Rican group called ‘Las Estrellas,’ or, “The Stars,” they came here to the festival as well, so we’re trying to be inclusive, we’ve got Dominican artists, I want to list it all, but we are really proud of every single group that we bring, because they bring a unique identity to each of the latinos that we try to represent in the festival.”
Christian Gonzalez, 17, ran a photography stand at the festival where customers could take a 360-degree photograph on a platform centering a swiveling iPad. Gonzalez said that as a new photographer, the festival helps him promote his business, and generally, helps the community learn about different cultures.
“Right now at the Latino Festival, we’re trying out the 360 photo booth, which has been really cool, a lot of people getting on it, and it’s been a lot of fun. […] I’m really new in the world of photography, and events like this help me get started,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a place where we can all connect. It’s the biggest festival connecting Central Americans and Southern American cultures with the Caribbeans as well. This year, in particular, we have Bolivian groups, Colombian groups, people from Chile, Peruvian people, Mexican Aztec dances. We’ve extended the cultural diversity here at the festival. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s a place to learn about different cultures.”
Congress Insurance Manager Don Deleire said that he became one of the event’s sponsors to give back to Lynn’s Guatemalan community, which, he said, has supported his business for years.
“This is maybe the fifth or six year, and every year it gets better. It’s predominantly a Central American festival, and the reason why I come every year is because the people of Guatemala, in Lynn, support my business tremendously, they’re very loyal to me, and whatever I can do to give back, whenever they say ‘Hey Don, are you available to do a church event?’ or ‘Are you available to do a festival?’ I’m first in line. They do nothing but support my business, so my family will always support them and whatever they need,” Deleire said.
An hour before sunset, a group of traditional Bolivian dancers, dressed in turquoise and white, caught the crowd’s attention before they even took stage. Without Borders Community Outreach Director Joselyne Reynoso said that each year, traditional dancers are a crowd favorite. She said that traditional dances shed light on some of Lynn’s minority cultures within the latino community.
“The big hit was the dances. We had dances from Bolivia, from Chile, from Peru, from Ecuador, and it brings out those minority groups in the hispanic community, and everybody should know that they have a presence here too. It’s not just Guatemalans, El Salvadoreans, or Mexicans, there’s a whole other community that needs to be represented as well,” Reynoso said.
Reynoso said that since the festival depends entirely on sponsorship, she encourages elected officials to get the word out about Without Borders.
“We really encourage our elected officials to really part into the magazine. We don’t depend on grants, we don’t get any money from the city, all of this is basically the sponsors and the small businesses make a really big effort in all of this,” she said.
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