Englewood's Latinos celebrate heritage, collect donations for Puerto Rico
Svetlana Shkolnikova, Staff Writer, @svetashko
ENGLEWOOD — On the surface, the city’s second annual Latino Festival looked like a party.
Visitors to West Palisade Avenue indulged in empanadas, chicharrones and other traditional Latino cuisine, danced to live Latino music and sampled local Latino businesses.
But several cardboard boxes placed at the festival’s western end put a more somber note on this year’s festivities as they filled with emergency supplies for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
“We want Puerto Ricans to know that they do matter and they have representation here,” said Magalye Matos, a volunteer helping lead the donation drive. “We’re supporting all our Latino communities that have been affected by this. What better place to help our Latino people than at our Latino festival?”
Volunteers working with the city’s St. Cecilia's Church have shipped three tons of baby food, diapers, batteries, bug repellent, water, feminine products and toiletries since Hurricane Maria crippled the Caribbean islands last month and plunged their residents into darkness.
Less than 1 in 8 Puerto Ricans have electricity and slightly over half have access to drinking water, according to the latest metrics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Experts believe it will take months to repair the island’s decimated electrical grid.
Matos said she will keep collecting supplies for Puerto Rico to do her part and is grateful to the Englewood Chamber of Commerce, the organizer of the Latino Festival, for helping with the effort.
The Integracion Juvenil de Mexico dance troupe performs at the Second Annual Latino Festival hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 in Englewood. (Photo: Steve Hockstein/Special to NorthJersey.com)
“It’s hard to see your people going through something like this,” Matos said. “Coming together as a community and being able to help one another is key and what we need now more than ever.”
Carol Rauscher, president of the chamber, said the festival was conceived as a way to physically bring Englewood’s Latino community together in the city’s downtown for a day. The festivities were capped off this year with a performance by salsa singer Gilberto Santa Rosa at bergenPAC.
“Englewood is changing and the Latino community is really growing and this is something that’s their own,” Rauscher said.
Almost 30 percent of the city’s population identified as Hispanic or Latino in the 2010 U.S. census.
Many of them packed into Mexican, Salvadoran and Colombian restaurants on West Palisade Avenue on Saturday to celebrate their heritage.
Noah Diaz (5) of Englewood sports a fresh face painting at the Second Annual Latino Festival hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on Saturday in Englewood on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. (Photo: Steve Hockstein/Special to NorthJersey.com)
At the Colombian restaurant D'Colombia, owner Paula Echeverry faced a heavy demand for her most popular dish, a meal platter called bandeja paisa, despite the competition.
Echeverry brought her business onto the sidewalk for the day, setting up tables and serving food beside vendors for Englewood’s government services, various community groups and her business neighbors.
“It's about unity,” she said.