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‘We are part of Iowa’: The Iowa City Latino Festival returns Saturday with food, dance and solidarity

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Dancers perform on the Ped Mall at the 2017 Iowa City Latino Festival. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The 8th annual Iowa City Latino Festival will be bringing food, music, dance and a strong sense of community to the Ped Mall on Saturday.

“We’re very excited, we’re growing,” said Manny Galvez, festival founder and organizer. “We are going to have more than 20 tables this time.”

It’s a marked change from last year.

In 2018, the festival was postponed for a month. A few days before the festival was scheduled to take place, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farm worker and undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was arrested for the murder of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts.

“We wanted to express our solidarity with her family and friends,” Galvez told Little Village when the postponement was announced. “Mollie’s friends, professors and other people are in Iowa City, and we know they are mourning and now is not the time for a festival downtown. We don’t want to do anything that could be interpreted as disrespectful.”

In addition to wanting to show respect for Tibbetts’ family and friends, the festival was facing security concerns. Social media was full of hateful and threatening rhetoric directly at Latinos following Bahena Rivera’s arrest. Some festival vendors told Galvez they were afraid there could be a violent incident or some other kind of disruption at the event.

It wasn’t just random voices on social media that were singling out Latino immigrants. Conservative politicians from Washington D.C. to Des Moines did so as well.

Of course, this year has seen no shortage of hateful rhetoric directed at Latinos in America, but Galvez says things are different in Iowa City.

“We have received so much support from local institutions,” Galvez said. Those institutions include the Iowa City Police Department, Think Iowa City, the Iowa City Downtown District, Summer of the Arts and the Iowa City Senior Center.

“We want to create a space where everybody’s welcome, where everybody can be safe,” Galvez explained. “One of the main objectives and goals of the festival is to build bridges between people and different communities in the Iowa City area.”

Once again, the food will be one of the attraction at the festival. In addition to Mexican fare, there will dishes from Central America and Venezuela.

There will also be nine hours of activities and entertainment on the Ped Mall once the festival kicks off at noon.

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Noon — music by DJ Edwin Alvarado

1:00 p.m. — Gunny the clown

2:00 p.m. — Carnaval Mini Parade by Iowa City Carnaval

2:30 p.m. — Cachiporras from Iowa City

3:00 p.m. — Salsa Class by Sunset Salsa

4:00 p.m. — Chinelos with Comparza Zapata from Minneapolis.

5:00 p.m. — Loquera Show, Mexican Folk band from Eastern Iowa

5:55 p.m. — Cachiporras from Iowa City

6:10 p.m.Luchadores Project with Miriam Alarcon

6:20 p.m. –- Reflexiones. Dancer: Tatum Beynon, Choreographer: Eloy Barragan-

6:30 p.m. — Tango Demonstration by Iowa City Tango Group

7:00 p.m. — Viejitos de Michoacan

7:20 p.m. — Chinelos with Comparza Zapata from Minneaopolis.

7:50 p.m. — “DanceArt,” salsa demonstration by Dharmini Leyla

8:00 p.m. — Salsa and Bachata with Edwin Alvarado

8:30 p.m. — Bruhyen. Latino urban singer

8:40 p.m. — Salsa and Bachata with Edwin Alvarado

“This festival is a way to say that our community is part of this city, we are part of Iowa,” Galvez said.


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