Area residents enjoyed authentic Latin cuisine, music, dancing and conversation during a Hispanic Heritage month celebration Friday.
A diverse group of area residents gathered together to enjoy a fiesta at the Eastside Family YMCA, 727 E. Second St. in Jamestown, which fostered discussion among the various ethnicities living around the region. The event featured traditional dishes and representatives from Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Peru, Italy, Ecuador and others.
According to Max Martin, YMCA branch manager, the event was held to bring the community together under one roof to share a meal, discuss differences, commonalities and ultimately form a stronger bond as Americans.
Area residents are shown enjoying authentic Latin cuisine at the Eastside Family YMCA during the annual Hispanic Heritage month celebration. P-J photos by Dusten Rader
"This event is not just for Hispanics - it's for the community," Martin said. "I'm hoping to recognize that there are a lot of professional Hispanics here that want to participate in the community. There are those who want to share in the culture, and little by little we're going to get there - my way is with food and music."
After filling themselves with good food, guests either joined their children on the dance floor, or continued conversation.
Liliana Zuluaga, of the BOCES English as a second language program, said the event is a great way to continue celebrating traditions, and to interact with the community.
"This is the most important celebration - like Christopher Columbus (day)," Zuluaga said.
Kathleen Kershaw, a Jamestown resident, said she attended the event because she visits Puerto Rico every year, and wanted to enjoy good food, music and a celebration.
Paul Leone, of Jamestown, attended the event for the delicious cuisine, but also because he thinks events such as this are a wonderful way to get to know your neighbors, and because he is a big fan of Max Martin.
"I think this event has high potential," Leone said.
Another area resident said he hopes to see the event grow to be as big and popular as some of the other cultural celebrations held throughout the year in Jamestown. He also said he thinks Martin should host cooking classes.
The event, which is held annually, was held at the Jamestown YMCA last year, and will be held at the Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney Renaissance Center in 2014.
"My goal is to cover more of the city," Martin said. "Next year I want to do more, such as bring an orchestra and have representatives of each culture speak about what makes them unique. But, what I really want is to see Hispanic Heritage celebrated every month - not just once a year during September and October."
The event was free and open to the public, but donations were accepted. The event was funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, which is administered by the Cattaraugus County Arts Council. For more information, call 484-3729 or visit www.jamestownymca.org/locations/eastside-family-ymca.