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The rain at the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage kickoff did not bother Dr. Elena Garcia Ansani, who organized the Sept. 20 event in the Robert Crown Center gymnasium. She told some of the early visitors to the kickoff, “In Mexican culture, the rain is a blessing.”
As the crowd gathered, people greeted one another and chatted in small groups, eventually taking their seats in the auditorium, where the Salcedo Group entertained the crowd with guitar music. The pace picked up with brass, strings and vocals of Mariachi Northwestern.
Several elected officials attended the event. “The U.S. is a big melting pot, a big stew,” said State Representative Robyn Gabel, “and the Hispanic culture is the biggest ingredient in that stew. Elena is helping to bring the Latino culture into Evanston culture.”
Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson said that, although he represents the Ward, “I am really here to represent everyone in the City of Evanston. Events like this … build strong communities.”
The centerpiece of the event was the awarding of college scholarships. Dr. Garcia Ansani, director of Latino Resources, who sponsored the event, announced the seven winners of Latino Resources Scholarships: Nancy Cardenas, Jaqueline Medina, Karl Ortegon, Luis Mejia, Gabriel Garcia, Emmanuel Patino and Diana Vega.
“Today is an important day for Latino Resources. We work to connect Latinos to resources and to promote active civic participation.” She said being executive director of the organization “is not easy, but it is the best work I know.”
“Mi Español es muy mal,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told the audience, but added she is taking Spanish lessons. “We are now seeing more Latinos in leadership. … I am so proud to see our leaders who will go on to college and come back, hopefully, and be leaders in Evanston.”
Other elected officials and civic leaders who attended the event were District 65 Superintendent Dr. Paul Goren, District 202 Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon, District 202 Board member Bill Geiger, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, Delores Holmes and Mark Tendam.
Northwestern Professor Frances Aparacio and Evanston Township High School social worker Aracely Canchola translated into Spanish the words of those who spoke only English.
Dancers from Tierra y Luz, dressed in traditional Mexican costumes, closed the formal ceremony. The drizzle outside did not last long, but the celebration and networking continued until after 4 p.m.