OXFORD – Miami University and the City of Oxford came together on Friday, Sept. 16, for the 14th annual Latin American and Caribbean UniDiversity Festival.
The festival included food, music, dancing, traditional arts and crafts, children’s activities, prizes, and organizational booths.
The festival is described as “a collaborative effort to promote diversity and inclusion in the Miami and Oxford communities.” It is co-sponsored by the Center for American and World Cultures with support from many campus and Oxford community organizations and the Talawanda School District, along with the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino affairs; and media partner Mujer Latina Today.
President Obama originally declared Sept. 15-Oct. 15 to be National Hispanic Latino Heritage Month, and Oxford Mayor Kate Rousmaniere echoed it at a recent council meeting, and to open the UniDiversity Festival.
Performers during the evening ranged from animals to dancers.
Amazon John took the stage with his “Silly Safari” live animal show. He brought armadillo’s and snakes onto the stage to introduce to the watching children. And the Mexican folkloric dance El Corazon de Mexico was performed, followed by the “festival address” by Miami President Gregory Crawford and the parade of International Peace Day flags.
Two Latin bands performed during the festival, Toca Manders and Orguesta Son Del Caribe (directed by Jaime Morales-Matos, associate professor of music.)
In addition to the other activities, the Oxford League of Women Voters also hosted a voter registration drive during the festival. Associate Director for The Center for American and World Cultures at Miami University, Jacqueline Rioja Velarde said voter registration is a very important aspect of the festival.
“Our main purpose is to get people to vote,” Sandra Woy-Hazleton, of the League of Women Voters, said. “Every time there is a gathering that’s going to be this large, then we try to get out here.”
Before the festival, “The Molas: The Art of Being Kuna” was featured at the Community Arts Center as part of a community outreach program the Ohio Commission ran before the festival.
Miami University’s Women’s Center was also present at the festival. This organization promotes gender equality across campus. A student representative noted, “I think it’s really important for us to be here today. We try to make it – even our physical space – very intersectional. We realize that women come from all sorts of identities. Latino women, black women, disabled women – there’s all kinds of women.”
One of the booths at the festival was about Monarch butterflies. The group handed out butterfly wings to children, telling them they could have them all night but had to return them in good shape. The point of this booth was to inform those who attend of the connection monarchs have between the U.S. and Mexico. Every year at this time, monarchs migrate from the U.S. to Mexico.
“Even though we’re celebrating Latino American and Caribbean cultures, the festival became a community event,” Associate Director Velarde said.
She noted, the event is not only for Miami or Talawanda, but people from other states come in especially for this festival.
“We make sure everybody feels like they’re part of the program,” Velarde said.