Last year, the first-ever Grand Haven Hispanic Heritage Fiesta brought thousands of people to Central Park for a day of celebrating the riches of the Hispanic heritage and culture present in our area. After expenses, the Fiesta made a donation of nearly $5,000 to the Migrant Resource Council, the largest gift that organization has ever received.
This year, given the nature of the global Coronavirus Pandemic, many festivals have been cancelled for 2020. But on Monday, August 3, the Grand Haven City Council approved plans for a 2020 Grand Haven Hispanic Heritage Fiesta week to be held September 21 through September 26. On the same day, it was announced that half of the proceeds from this year’s Fiesta will go to Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates.
Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates (LIA) is a local nonprofit law office that works to bring stability to West Michigan families and communities through legal services, education, and advocacy. LIA is the only nonprofit organization in the greater Ottawa County area that provides these critical services to the immigrant community. “We are incredibly honored that the GHHHF team has chosen to partner with us in this way,” Julia Fulton from LIA said. “Our team had a great time last year, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to safely connect with the Grand Haven community this fall.”
Additionally, the group behind last year’s Fiesta has filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Michigan to become a stand-alone non-profit corporation, the Tri-Cities Puentes Initiative (TCPI). The mission of the TCPI will be to build bridges (puentes, in Spanish) and cultural understanding through the celebration of the Hispanic and Latinx community in the Tri-Cities area. The other half of the Fiesta proceeds will go to the creation of the TCPI.
The Fiesta will be one of the primary programs offered each year by the TCPI, but the hope in 2021 is that regular programs can be offered throughout the year that will educate people about Hispanic history in the Tri-Cities and celebrate Hispanic culture. “I am excited about the creation of TCPI and that we will be able to have a Fiesta again this year,” said Reyna Masko, co-chair of the Fiesta and of TCPI and a member of the City of Grand Haven Human Relations Commission, “We want to be an organization that brings people together by building bridges (puentes) through education, celebration and more importantly provide leadership opportunities for Hispanic/Latinx residents that call Tri-Cities their home.”
Leadership wasn’t sure what to expect for the first Fiesta. “When we first announced plans for last year’s Fiesta, we were met with skepticism, a sense that there wasn’t a significant Hispanic heritage and culture in the Tri-Cities,” said the Rev. Dr. Jared Cramer, co-chair of the Fiesta and of TCPI and also rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven. However, the Fiesta leaders that after a celebration that included thousands of community members, they were able to affirm that the presence of Hispanics and Latinos in our community is a strong one. Cramer continued, “We were also able to highlight the fact that Hispanics and Latinos contribute much more to our communities than agricultural work; they are artists, musicians, business owners, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and community leaders.”
More information on the week of celebrations planned for September is available on the Fiesta website at www.grandhavenfiesta.org. More information on the Tri-Cities Puentes Initiative can be found on their website, www.tcpuentes.org.