Hispanic Heritage Fiesta
Story and Interviews by Teresa Nguyen
On September 9th, 2019, the Janesville City Council recognized that “Hispanic American have contributed greatly to our nation in all areas including science, art, music, sports, education, and public service,” by accepting a resolution declaring September 15th through October 15th as Hispanic Heritage Month in Janesville. Last Sunday, September 25th, between noon and 4 pm, Premier Bank of Janesville was a lively, colorful and fun place to be! The local bank hosted a free, family-friendly event to celebrate Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month.
Entertainment included an upbeat, traditional Mariachi Band – Sol de Madison, adorable children presenting Mexican folk dancing, fun balloon animals, colorful face paintings, bounce houses and more for the visitors and children
Several non-profit organizations shared resourceful information and the Hedberg Public Library Bookmobile drew in the little ones, eager to hold special books in their hands and to learn more about what the library has to offer. Even the Janesville Police Department was there to give attendees a tour of a squad car, try on a helmet, hold a heavy riot shield or just a chance to chat with the officers.
Additionally, the Rock County Wisconsin Public Health Department tent offered free Covid-19 vaccines and boosters.
Several popular food trucks were there ranging from hot coffee to warm the guests on a breezy fall afternoon to mouthwatering Mexican lunch options.
After weeks of planning by the staff at Premier Bank and others, the event successfully kicked off, celebrating the culture, customs, and cuisine of Hispanic-Americans.
Janesville Area Stories was onsite to explore the event with local photographer, Kim Hoholek. Tess Nguyen interviewed a variety of attendees and organizations at this exciting, fun and educational community event.
The interviewees shared how it all came together and why this event is important not only to those taking part, but to the Rock County community as a whole.
Bilingual Relationship Banker with Premier Bank We started our bilingual initiative at the bank three years ago in 2019. It is an outreach program to inform the Hispanic community. We had a similar event in Whitewater on Cinco de Mayo, but then during the pandemic, the event planning was put on hold.
This year, we wanted to do something similar at our Janesville branch. The free event is open to the public to help educate the whole community, to give a little snapshot of our culture with the music, the food, the dancing and all. We also have activities for the kids and various nonprofits are here to help bring awareness of services in the Rock County area.
Chantelle and José - Local Family Attending the Event
We are out here to experience the diversity and the people who came together here. We want to experience the culture and our heritage, as well.
It’s important for our children to also have this cultural experience.
So far, we got a refreshing icee, some coffee and we’re headed to the bouncy house. Later we’ll probably get some tacos from one of the food trucks!
Officer Rocha and Officer Carrasco
Off. Rocha: We’re here to try and promote law enforcement for the Hispanic community. We also want to show them that they can have interest in serving, that we welcome diversity. We want let them know that we’re here for them, too.
Off. Carrasco: I moved to the Midwest from Mexico when I was ten, so this has special significance for me, as well. We have a growing Hispanic population here, so being bilingual, we can be “the face” for this segment of our community and make them feel that we’re approachable.
We want to break down the cultural barrier with police, to make them feel comfortable coming to us for reports and such. Sometimes we seem intimidating, but we want to show them that we’re just people, too.
Also, we have an ongoing hiring process, and we want to help people learn about it. When I was hired, I didn’t know much about the process, so it’s nice to be here if people have any questions about it.
Volunteer with the League of Women Voters
I’m here today with the League of Women Voters. I hope to explain to everybody what a beautiful right they have to vote. As a Latina, who had to jump through a lot of hoops to become a citizen and to be able to vote and express my opinion, I want others to have the same use of their right. It’s so important.
My philosophy is that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain!
As a person born in Argentina, an event like this keeps me closer to my culture. It’s also important for Janesville because these people live here and they are part of who we are as a community.
Diversity is not something you can just put under the table and ignore. Instead, I believe we need to embrace other cultures and learn from each other.
Local Event Attendee
This event is important to me because it’s an event supporting all Hispanic/Latino people, from a variety of backgrounds. It’s an event to help our community with resources and we’re feeling accepted here. We are here to support these organizations, as well. We feel that they care about us.
At this event, we’re learning about the resources for parents, children, how to register to vote, how to apply to colleges, purchase a home, etc. These are important services.
There’s a lot of information that we don’t know. It makes me glad that they’ve taken the time for us. It’s important that we have this opportunity to learn what’s out there for the Hispanic people of our community.
UW Extension - Positive Youth Development Educator
In the past, Hedberg Public Library has done events like this, and this year, Premier Bank worked really hard to bring us out to this event. The bank representatives were very passionate about having various services and nonprofit organizations here today.
I am here representing UW Madison Division of Extension in Rock County. We have two programs that have consistent bilingual support. One is our Youth Development – 4H and the other is our FoodWIse nutrition program.
For me, from the 4-H perspective, one of the components of 4-H is "belonging". But we can’t have a feeling of belonging without identity and having that representation. It’s good for people to come on out and show that 4-H is for everyone.
This event is important to me both professionally and also personally. I’ve had a long career of working with Latino communities both in the United States and abroad. It’s a really joyful thing to do!