It’s no secret that the local Latino community is growing. They’re visible throughout the Greater New Orleans area in many ways, especially in food, music and dance.
This Sunday, Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Audubon Zoo honor Latin American culture with the 10th annual Celebración Latina — a vibrant outdoor festival that offers fun for the whole family. More than 6,000 people are expected to attend.
Eileen Johnson, the director of Audubon’s community outreach program, works as the liaison with the Stone Center.
“My job is to create programs that make all segments of the community feel welcome and offer access to those who would otherwise not have an opportunity to come,” she said.
Free admission tickets are distributed annually to various schools, consulates, churches and community centers. Since 2010, 10,357 free admissions have been redeemed. The festival welcomes both Latinos and those who simply appreciate Latin American culture.
“It’s a blending of cultures, because even though we have a lot of Latinos that are here, we have folks from all walks of life that come out to enjoy a good time,” Johnson said.
Upon entering the festival grounds, guests will be greeted by the aroma of authentic Latin American cuisine, prepared by local restaurants. Food items include carnitas tacos from Felipe’s Taqueria and pupusas from Celina’s International Supermarket.
The food booths are stationed near the Capital One Stage and Field, where visitors can enjoy music from local Latin American performers, such as Ovi-G and the Froggies, DJ Sosa and Vivaz. There likely will be festgoers showing off their best salsa and merengue moves.
In the arts and crafts tent, children can create a souvenir that commemorates their visit to the festival. Also, organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Center for Public Service, Puentes and the New Orleans Public Library’s Pebbles Center will offer social service and wellness information to all visitors.
Since Celebración Latina is included with a zoo admission, guests are invited to wander throughout the zoo and stop by Jaguar Jungle. This exhibit features a replica of Mayan ruins, a dig site for young archaeologists and exotic animals, including jaguars, spider monkeys, anteaters and toucans. And it provides information on how to protect the rainforests, along with the animals who live there.
“Our mission is to welcome families for a fun, family-oriented time,” Johnson said. “But the other thing we want to do is make sure that those families are connected to nature.”