It was my first time attending this event, since it is usually held in San Antonio, Texas — a bit out of my way! I joined so many people of New York City on Saturday morning, lining up around the block and waiting anxiously for the doors to open. Excited to get the chance to meet our favorite Latino celebrities, the crowd's energy was so intense it was felt even before entering the building.
Once inside, I was greeted by a live DJ playing some of this year's favorite Latin tunes and classic crowd favorites. We let loose and danced to the sounds of Caribbean music, and many people were waving their country's flags and celebrating the last days of Hispanic Heritage Month. I stopped to personalize my very own classic Coca-Cola bottle -- I represented with Colombian colors and also snagged a personalized "Latina" bottle!
But it wasn't all fun and dancing. There was a jail cell replica where guests were able to interactively experience the life of an imprisoned immigrant by listening to individual stories through iPads. Talk about a powerful experience! At the same booth, there were also more than 15 attorneys on site for free consultations.
The panels were my favorite part of the day because you felt like you were having one-on-one conversations with each artist. Hearing Rita Moreno, an icon in our culture, speak about her life-long career, the adversity she faced and how she overcame her struggles was a highlight of my weekend. There were thousands of people around, yet she made you feel as if you were having an intimate conversation in her living room. After the discussion she held a "meet and greet" and made sure to take pictures and sign autographs with all her fans. Later in the event, I was lucky enough to shake hands with Gloria Estefan and told her how I learned to sing in Spanish to her Mi Tierra album.
It was an event where no one was left out. All ages were welcome and families were able to spend the weekend together in true Latino tradition — and familia, as we know, is the nucleus of the Latino culture
On the last day, 100 candidates for United States citizenship from around the world were naturalized at a very inspirational ceremony. This ceremony truly embodied the festival's theme, “Your Voice, Your Power, Your Festival," or “Tu Voz, Tu Poder, Tu Festival.”
It was quite an honor to have been invited to a festival where all Latin cultures were under one roof celebrating our heritage and having once in a lifetime experiences with some of our favorite celebrities.
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