The 12th annual Latino Cultural Festival drew thousands of people to downtown Hillsboro Sunday.
Music, food, futsal and dancing underscored an all-day event that attracted nearly 100 vendors — more than any previous year, according to Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce Director of Special Events Cindy Crowder.
“We had really positive feedback from our vendors,” Crowder said. “They all agreed that we wish the weather cooperated a bit better, but everyone agreed that it didn’t take away from the event. They still loved being able to be involved in the Latino celebration.”
Following a short parade down Main Street from the Courthouse to the Civic Center, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey provided opening statements for the day’s festivities, which City Councilor Olga Acuña translated.
“I joked that one of the privileges of being bilingual is that I can interpret the Mayor’s words however I want,” Acuña told the Tribune Tuesday. “I thanked everyone for being involved in the community and I encouraged them to continue to get involved in the City.”
With her term expiring this November, Acuña’s role as the council’s sole Latino representative will soon come to an end. She used the speaking opportunity to draw interest toward a Latino council replacement.
“This is my last year on the council,” she said. “This is the Mayor’s last year. I told everyone in the crowd to consider running for office. It’s a great opportunity. Get your name on the list.”
Though it rained for part of the morning and afternoon, a break in the clouds let the sunshine in following an indigenous dance performed by the Huitzilin Cultural Group from Dayton, Ore.
“I would estimate about 7,500 people attended this year’s event, which is a really impressive number given that it did end up raining during most of the festival,” Crowder said. “It speaks to how important this diverse festival is not just to our county, but the state of Oregon. I heard people say they traveled from Bend, Ashland, Medford, Vancouver — all just to be a part of the festivity.”
A vital festival for the Hillsboro community, Crowder added, it has been well anticipated by attendees, businesses, and supporters each year.
“With our population being about 25 percent Latino, it’s important that we enrich and engage the community in the festivities of Hillsboro’s largest minority,” she said.
And while the festival is primarily Latino-focused, it’s designed to bridge the cultural gap for folks who might not otherwise be exposed to the Hispanic world otherwise.
“I love that the Latino Cultural Festival has become a multicultural festival over the years,” Acuña said. “Because we are at the heart of the city, people feel safe, they feel welcome, and they can come and enjoy each other. So we are bringing all walks of life together for the festival, not just Latino community members.”