The seventh-annual Corazon Latino Festival–an event organized as a part of the Language and Culture Resource Center–consumed the streets of downtown Johnson City Friday night.
Festival attendees were invited to partake in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Latino culture.
The festival was divided into several zones. “Chico Zone,” an area set-up with activities for children, was hosted by ETSU’s Hispanic American Student Community Alliance.
Jacqueline Garcia, a member of HASCA, said she grew up in California and later moved to Tennessee with her family.
Garcia said she attends events like Corazon Latino because she enjoys expanding her knowledge of Latino culture.
“I grew up with [Hispanic culture], but other Hispanic cultures are different from mine because I’m Mexican,” Garcia said. “I like meeting friends from other countries, so it’s really interesting.”
Garcia was not the only one learning about different aspects of Latino cultures. Students of all nationalities attended the festival to expand their cultural finesse.
Badr Alharbi, an ETSU student from Saudi Arabia, said he came to the festival to have fun, learn Latino dances and try some of the food offered at the festival.
“Latino culture is the best because the people are so friendly, and the food is really good,” Alharbi said. “They have a drink called horchata, which is very delicious.”
He added that the culture is very different from Saudi culture, and he is glad that he’s able to learn about so many different cultures during his time in America.
Another zone at the festival was called “Passport to the Americas.” This zone was comprised of several booths representing each country that makes up Central and South America, as well as Spain. Participants were given a passport booklet to be stamped at each booth.
At the Puerto Rico booth, visitors were invited to play a variety of traditional musical instruments such as the cuatro and the güiro —the national instruments of Puerto Rico—in order to earn their stamp.
One of the ambassadors for Puerto Rico, Ruben Del Valle Saez, came to the festival with a group of people who join together to represent Puerto Rico at local festivals.
Although it was their third time at Corazon Latino, Ruben said he only knows of one other Latino culture festival in East Tennessee, which is in Knoxville.
He added it is important to sponsor events like this one.
“It’s a good way to expose the Latin culture,” Ruben said. “A lot of people in this area are more familiar with American and Southern cultures, but this is a good exposition of who we are, so people can learn about us.”
The festival did not just host students, however.
There were a number of attendees who were simply community members excited about supporting local events.
Seth Penley attended the festival with his wife and young son and said they wanted to come out for the kick-off of Johnson City’s “First Friday” summer series.
“It’s the first First Friday, and we love downtown,” Penley said. “We are excited about local stuff and getting involved in our community. We just thought it would be fun to come down and see what’s going on.”