The idea to create The Barrio Latino Art Festival originated when a group of local Latino artists and students from Bowling Green State University were painting a mural on Broadway street.
Linda Parra, president and founder of Nuestra Gente Community Projects Inc., remembers that moment. “I saw this [mural painting] movement and I thought, ‘We need to do something for the arts and the artists in this area. Something that will continue through the years.’ So I thought, let’s do a festival! And let’s call it Barrio Latino because we are Latinos here doing this.”
The first Barrio Latino Art Festival was in 2012 and is now growing, with more sponsors and and even more artists. Latin American art is the combined artistic expression of South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico, as well as Latin Americans living in other regions. It has roots in the many different indigenous cultures that inhabited the Americas before European colonization in the 16th century. The indigenous cultures developed sophisticated artistic disciplines, highly influenced by religious and spiritual concerns, and their work is collectively known as pre-Columbian art. The blending of Native American, African and European cultures has resulted in this unique artistic tradition. August is Hispanic Heritage Month and The Barrio Latino Art Festival ties in with that larger celebration.
The main mission of the event is to promote the arts in the local community, support artists themselves, and support local charitable organizations. Artists each have their own booth and can sell their art. While it started off with a focus on Latino artists, it is now open up to local artists of all backgrounds. But the base and main focus of the festival, overall, is Latino.
The Woman Behind the Festival
Linda Parra came to Ohio in 2000 to get married. She met her husband when the company he was with had him working in her home country of Venezuela. They had a child together. Parra’s mom told her she thought it was best for Parra to go with her son to Ohio so he could be close to his dad.
Parra took her mother’s advice and moved to Ohio, and a month later she was married. Four months later her mom passed away. Parra wanted to go back to attend her mom’s funeral, but couldn’t leave the country because she was in the middle of her paperwork for residency.
“The most important thing I had was gone,” Parra said. “So I told the immigration officers, ‘You do whatever you want.’ ”
Luckily, she was advised by one immigration officer on how to proceed in a way that would help her stay in the U.S. with her husband and son, though she had to start the process all over again.
“When I got here I said ‘I don’t have family here,’ but I want to do something for the people that really need help. I am one of them too,” Parra said. “Being an immigrant, I have been through a lot of things. It makes me stronger. I’m a fighter.”
Parra is now finishing her bachelor’s degree and plans to go on to study law after she graduates in 2016.
Community Services & Community Radio
When Parra was 18 years old, she started doing radio in Venezuela. Now, here in Toledo, she hosts Nuestra Gente, a Spanish language radio show on Saturdays from 1-2pm on WCWA 1230 AM.
“The radio show was successful in the community, but then I wanted to establish an organization that would provide different programs, not only a radio show,” Parra said.
Parra expanded her work to provide Latino individuals and families with free health screenings, information about diabetes and breast cancer, and also free HIV testing and free contraception. She does referrals for migrant workers with no insurance, helping them apply for programs like Carenet, as well as helping them make a first appointment. Parra also provides transportation to and from appointments, all free of charge.
Currently, Parra is doing this on her own. “I wish I had more funding to hire people and do more.”
More recently, in 2014, Parra became part of an effort to start the first local Spanish language FM station, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Radio. The station will be 24 hours and all in Spanish with a Catholic focus. The station will provide programming that presents education and information directly benefitting the Latino community. Lucas County has the 3rd largest population of Latinos in Ohio. The audience is here.
Parra sees her media and service work as integrated. “Everything is about the community.”
The Barrio Latino Festival is open to all to attend. Proceeds from The Barrio Latino Festival will go towards supporting three area non-profit organizations: Nuestra Gente Community Projects, Toledo Seagate Food Bank of NW Ohio, and The Providence Center. The event features music, dancing, food, art both on display and for purchase, crafts, car show, jalapeño contest, kid’s activities, health screenings, raffles, and mural painting.
Starting at the beginning of the festival on Sunday, at noon, there will be mural painting on the back wall of the The Providence Center. All who attend the festival are welcome to paint. This collective activity will end in the evening once the mural is finished. Artist Ricardo Quinones Aleman will coordinate the mural painting. At 6pm, there will be an award and a tribute given on behalf of local artist Joe Martinez, who passed away last November.
“Art requires something of us,” Parra said. “We have to create, to express, to give life to the ideas inside us.”
Noon-9pm Sunday, August 30th.
The Providence Center, 1205 Broadway St.
More info on Nuestra Gente at: nuestragentecommunityprojects.org