This blog was written for Visit Shreveport-Bossier by Briant Garcia of 318 Latino. It is also available on 20x49 here.
The Essence of Hispanic Identity
Being Hispanic is more than just a label; it’s a vibrant tapestry of culture, history, and identity that flows through our veins like a river of shared memories and traditions. It’s the rhythm of salsa, cumbia, banda and folkloric music that quickens our hearts, the rich flavors of Abuela’s cooking that warm our souls, and the colorful threads of our heritage that weave a unique story. Being Hispanic means embracing a deep sense of family, where gatherings are not just occasions but celebrations of love and unity. It’s the resilience passed down from generations who have faced adversity with unwavering strength, reminding us that our roots are firmly planted in the soil of determination. It’s the language that connects us to our ancestors, allowing us to carry their voices forward. Being Hispanic is a celebration of diversity within our community, a reminder that we are bound not just by blood, but by the shared dreams and aspirations of a people who have carved their mark on history. It’s a mosaic of emotions, from pride to nostalgia, that define our essence and make us who we are. And so, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month to honor the contributions and achievements of Hispanic individuals and communities that have enriched the cultural fabric of the United States.
The Historical Tapestry of Hispanic Growth in NWLA
My journey in Shreveport, Louisiana began in 2002, a time when glimpses of fellow Hispanics were rare, primarily confined to my ESL class at Creswell Elementary or visits to Nicky’s, one of the few Hispanic-owned restaurants in the area. The language barrier was my first formidable challenge, as communicating with classmates, teachers, and strangers often felt like an intricate game of charades, a skill I had yet to master. This reality echoes the experiences of countless Hispanics across the United States.
Fast forward to 2007, Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath saw an influx of people from New Orleans to Northwest Louisiana, including numerous Hispanic families who chose to make Shreveport, Bossier, and Haughton their home. By then, the Latino population had grown substantially, leading to the emergence of resources like VITA Latina Magazine, which served as a vital link for Spanish-speaking communities, guiding them to essential services and products.
Since those early days, the Hispanic population has flourished exponentially. This growth is evident in the thriving Latino businesses rooted in our region. We now boast over 25 churches offering services in Spanish, a testament to our community’s deepening roots. In various fields, from medicine to law, accounting to entrepreneurship, Hispanics have risen to the top of their professions. New Mexican restaurants and taquerias continue to open, a testament to our community’s collective spirit of growth and support. Many of these new ventures trace their origins to former employees of pioneers like Mr. Elias Sifuentes of Nicky’s Mexican Restaurant and Mr. Pancho of Trejos.
We celebrate companies like PPT or M&N Concrete, the builders, laborers, roofers, and masons who have secured major contracts, contributing to the region’s infrastructure and fostering opportunities for new businesses. What’s truly remarkable is that this progress has been accomplished by the first significant generation of Hispanics to establish deep roots in our region. We are now nurturing the second generation of young adults, poised to graduate from high school, carrying forward the legacy of their heritage.
It’s worth noting that the rich tapestry of our Hispanic population extends beyond Mexican heritage. We proudly encompass a significant presence of individuals with Honduran, Salvadoran, and Nicaraguan roots, alongside families hailing from Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. Our community’s diversity is a testament to the vibrant mosaic of cultures and traditions that enrich our Hispanic heritage.
Hispanic Heritage Month 2023
This year, we come together in Shreveport-Bossier to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a series of exciting events that pay homage to our vibrant culture and community.
We kick off the season by welcoming Bossier City’s first-ever Hispanic Health Clinic, ensuring accessible healthcare services for our underserved Hispanic community, complete with Spanish-speaking professionals and affordable prices.
From September 15th to 17th, the aroma of exquisite Hispanic cuisine fills our restaurants, offering special dishes and drink specials at venues like Ki’ Mexico, El Potrillo, Taqueria San Miguel, El Mariachi, Taqueria Mi Palmar, and El Novillo, among many others where flavors come alive, and the spirit of Viva La Revolucion thrives.
On September 30th, HHA (Hispanic Heritage Association) collaborates with Broadmoor Baptist Church to host the Hispanic Information Fair. Over 30 local vendors will provide information in Spanish, empowering our local population. The event also features seminars on finance, homeownership, and immigration.
Mark your calendars for October 14th when we gather at the Shreveport Aquarium for the Hispanic Heritage Festival, an event organized by the Hispanic Heritage Association of NWLA. Here, you’ll savor dishes from six different countries, enjoy live music and captivating performances, and witness the presentation of scholarships benefiting young adults pursuing higher education in Shreveport-Bossier.
Get ready for an incredible celebration at the State Fair of Louisiana’s Latino Day, a growing event that has become the region’s largest Latino gathering. Stay tuned for more details about this year’s festivities, featuring top musical acts like La Reunion Norteña, La Tropa Vallenata, Grupo Reyado, and DJ Lashes, promising a day filled with captivating music and dance that will touch your heart. Alongside these performances, expect to be delighted by folkloric dance artists and an array of vendors serving the Hispanic community, enhancing the overall experience. (TBA for specific event date).
Lastly, on November 4th, HHA presents its inaugural Day of the Dead Festival, a special celebration deeply rooted in Mexican and Spanish traditions, honoring those who have come before us. The event will feature a Catrina contest, an Altar display contest, mariachi performances, Aztec dancers, and a magnificent display of 12-ft Catrinas. This free-to-enter event will be held at Festival Plaza in Downtown Shreveport.
In conclusion, Hispanic Heritage Month in Shreveport-Bossier is a time of celebration, reflection, and unity, highlighting the extraordinary contributions of our Hispanic community to the region’s cultural tapestry. As we look ahead to the future, we recognize the resilience, strength, and pride that define our Hispanic identity, a heritage that continues to flourish and shape the vibrant mosaic of our diverse community.