Carson City took a decidedly Latin twist Sunday at Mills Park's Pony Express Pavilion as Mariachi music mixed with the aroma of Latin food, and Hispanic families from all countries and walks of life gathered on a beautiful afternoon in September.
Booths selling everything from pottery to posole (a type of Mexican stew) lined the pavilion, but in the truest of American traditions the politicians were out in force. Mayoral candidate Tom Tatro was there, and Mayor Ray Masayko proclaimed Sept. 17 Salsa Y Salsas (food and dance) Festival Day to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Sandra Martinez of Mexico City and Miguel Gomez of Jalisco were selling wonderful combinations of sliced fruit that could be topped with spices, salt, or lime juice the Mexican way. And not too far from them Marcella Saldana, originally from Guanajuato Mexico, was frying up gorditas.
Raquel Knecht, director of Nevada Hispanic Services in Carson City, said the best things about the Hispanic culture are the food, the music, and the people.
"They are a warm people who love the chance to share their culture, and they love this kind of atmosphere," Knecht said, waving a hand toward the celebration. She emphasized that this is a family oriented event, which is also central to Hispanic culture.
Carson City singer Rosella Nunez,12, stood by her very proud mother. She's been singing since she was five, and took first place at the UNR Hispanic Heritage Days talent contest last week.
"She's not just a talent, she's a great student," Bonnie Parnell, teacher and assemblywoman for District 40 said. Parnell, who teaches at Carson Middle School, said Nunez has received several academic awards.
Education is the most critical issue facing Hispanics in this country according to Mexican Consulate Jose Tampillo, who came from Sacramento to address the crowd. He sees education as key to the success of his people in this country. That, and access to basics such as health services are the most pressing problems facing Hispanic people today.
He feels that some policies here deny Hispanics basic rights, forcing them into a position where they can be exploited, and access to educational opportunities as well as family health services are the key to success for Hispanics living and working here.
This is the fourth year for this event, sponsored by the Nevada Arts Council and the Carson City Convention and Visitors' Bureau. Salsa Y Salsas! Festival is produced by Nevada Hispanic Services, a non-profit community outreach agency to inform and refer the Hispanic community to existing social services agencies, and assist the Hispanic community with interpretation services, and to promote and develop youth leadership.