A Weekend of Hispanic Culture, Food, Music, and Advocacy
On Saturday, June 16, after we left the Juneteenth celebration, we headed over to the Federated Church Family Life Center in Chagrin Falls to take part in Our Adobe Hacienda: A Taste of Old Mexico, which was billed as "an evening celebrating the rich history and cultures of Mexico and supporting the critical work of HOLA Ohio."
When we arrived we were warmly greeted by Ms. Veronica Dahlberg, Founder and Executive Director of HOLA Ohio, and Ms. Kelsey Fischer, HOLA's Program Manager. Over the course of the evening we encountered a lot of people that we knew amongst the 500 or so attendees, including Painesville City Councilperson Lori DiNallo; Mr. David Schafer, Managing Director of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage; Reverend Denis Paul of the East Shore Unitarian Church; Reverend Joe Cherry of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Cleveland; Ms. Cheryl Stephens, President and CEO of the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation; and Mr. Kevin Malecek, Senior Development Officer at The Lakeland Foundation.
Ms. Ana Garcia, the host of "The Ana Show" on Channel 3, WKYC, was the emcee for the evening. Here's what she said in the course of her introduction: "When HOLA was born two decades ago as a loosely organized group of women, Northeast Ohio's Latino immigrant community was small but rapidly growing. Since then, Latino immigrant families have become deeply rooted in our communities, and they continue to be a driving force in Ohio's multi-billion dollar nursery and agriculture industries. With Veronica's leadership over the past two decades, HOLA has also grown into a formidable force, an unwavering advocate for Ohio's Latino immigrants and their families, who, despite their many contributions to our society, their warm and hospitable nature, great food, and rich history and culture which we are celebrating today, still face obstacles to equal opportunity in our country."
One of the goals for this evening was the raising of funds to establish a Hispanic community center in Painesville that will hopefully be operational in 2019. We got to meet the architect, Mr. Jeffrey C. Meyers, and learned from the program notes, that the Lake County Land Bank will donate a building once funding is in place. HOLA already secured funds from the USDA, as well as commitments from the City of Painesville and others.
We are proud to say that Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC was one of the two presenting sponsors of "Our Adobe Hacienda..." so we got to set up an information table. Ms. Wong herself was there and got to speak for a couple of minutes. She said that even though the situation for foreign-born, often undocumented people is not too good now due to the policies of the Trump administration, we definitely must not give up hope and place current happenings in the context of the history of immigration to the United States as she herself documented in her book, The Immigrant's Way.
The other presenting sponsor was the Marten family, represented by Mr. Jon Marten who, before his retirement, was Chief Financial Officer of Parker Hannifin. He now serves as chair of HOLA Ohio Board of Directors. Mr. Marten also spoke for a moment and said he was honored to be able to devote so much of his time to HOLA, which he considered to be an outstanding investment.
Another speaker who moved us was a person who testified as to how much HOLA had assisted her and her family after she was detained by immigration officials for three months. Along these lines, Ms. Dahlberg spoke of how she and Ms. Fischer have been working vigorously to help those detained after the raid of Corso's Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky at the beginning of June, 2018.
One person we very much enjoyed talking with was Ms. Gail Long, who contributes to organizing the Tremont Arts and Cultural Festival each year. She told us of how her mother spent years assisting Filipinos who wanted to return to their native land after working for many years in the sugar cane fields in Hawaii; prior to our conversation we knew nothing about this matter, so we learned a lot from Ms. Long.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by the HOLA Ohio Folkloric Dance Group as well as the Sones de Mexico Ensemble which, as it states on its website, "was formed in Chicago's historic Pilsen neighborhood in 1994 to keep the tradition of Mexican 'son' alive in its many regional forms. As performers and recording artists, the ensemble has developed and popularized many original arrangements of Mexican traditional tunes through touring the United States and internationally, performing at such prestigious venues as the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago."
In terms of the currently troubling political climate, one event we would have liked to have attended but didn't know about until after it was over, was a gathering in Public Square and march to the Justice Center that took place on Thursday afternoon in Cleveland. It challenged the disturbing policies of separating undocumented children from their families after they have been apprehended by immigration officials and the conditions in which these children are kept.
The action was organized by Families Belong Together and, from a friend of ours who was there, we learned that 100 people showed up on a busy workday to make their voices heard. Such activities by concerned citizens can only do good.
These troubling times were also touched upon in Father Robert J. Reidy's letter that appeared in the booklet for the Festival Cultural Latino Americano 2018 that took place at La Sagrada Familia over the weekend. We tabled there on Sunday, June 17.
Father Reidy wrote, "we have chosen for our theme this year: 'We will stand with you.' This theme touches the reality of division in which we live. It seems that many people are for themselves these days; they want to stand alone. Our politics, local and international, our multiracial and multicultural communities, and even our families show signs of worsening divisions. This theme lets those who are alone or marginalized know that they have the support and love from many of us who care. This message crosses over the lines of race, culture, and creed. May our theme become more and more the reality as we continue our lives."
As we tabled, several people came up to us and requested copies of Ms. W. Wong's book, The Immigrant's Way, including an attorney named Jenine who sometimes works with people who have immigrated to the United States from other countries; a young woman named Tanya who will be doing her high school senior project on immigration; and a woman named Carmen who wanted to thank Ms. Wong for representing her husband when he immigrated to the United States from Honduras years ago.
We also chatted with Ms. Maria Roman who is very actively involved in Fe y Luz Agua Viva or Faith and Light International, which provides support for families who have members with special needs.
Among the people we knew who stopped by while we were tabling was Judge Denise Nancy Rini, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, whom we often see at community functions.
In addition, we visited with some friends of ours who had just attended Mass at St. Colman's and told us that Father Bob Begin (to no surprise, he still presides over one Mass per week although at least somewhat retired) gave a stirring presentation that morning regarding social justice in which he mentioned immigration.
Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC