Festive Parade Celebrating Columbus’ Latin Cultures Lights Up Downtown

Judy Heredia stood on the side of Civic Center Drive Downtown as the parade passed, clutching a Mexican flag with both hands and waving vigorously.

“Viva la Mexico! Whooooooo!” Heredia applauds. Long live Mexico.

But the parade that took place along the Scioto River was not just about Mexico and the parades proudly displaying Mexican flags.

It was also about those in the parade who hailed from Chile and its Andes mountains in South America and the Dominican Republic and its proud baseball heritage in the Caribbean. From Bolivia and El Salvador, Brazil, Argentina and Puerto Rico, all are now settling in the Great Columbus.

“It’s very heartwarming. It’s about bringing the Hispanic community together,” said Heredia, who is originally from Polina in western Mexico but now lives in Whitehall.

“We are here, and we are here to stay,” she said.

It was this sense of community that was clear among the hundreds of people in attendance at the parade and the onlookers watching them, no matter where they or their families came from.

Deogo Gutierrez adjusts his

The parade has started Latin/Hispanic Heritage Month in Columbus. Organizers emphasized Latin (lah-TEE’-nay) because the term is gender neutral and Spanish.

Columbus City Council member Lourdes Barroso de Padilla, a Columbus native of Cuban descent, said at least 30 countries were represented in the parade, the first of its kind in Columbus.

Barroso de Padilla has helped coordinate the effort with 20 to 30 community members since late spring.

“We had a vision to do something like this,” she said, which she says will become an annual event.

The results of that vision were clear Saturday morning along the Rich Street Bridge over the Scioto, where units lined up for the parade.

This included women in high heels and colorful samba outfits and high headdresses, representing Brazil, and a van outfitted in the red, white and blue colors of the Dominican Republic.

Dancers from the Pittsburgh Samba Group prepare their headdresses to march in Columbus' first Latin/Hispanic Heritage Month Parade on Saturday.

The Dominican group was accompanied by Zari Carmona, wearing a straw hat, with her friend Sandra Lopez, who said she estimated there were 10,000 to 15,000 people of Dominican descent in the Columbus area, supporting five Dominican grocery stores and 100 Dominican-owned businesses.

“We have clothing stores. So many businesses,” said Carmona, from the East Side.

She came to Columbus 21 years ago from Staten Island, New York, home to more than 700,000 people of Dominican descent, for a better lifestyle, more affordable housing and job opportunities.

Lopez, also from the East Side, has been here for 25 years and also mentioned a better way of life here, which includes something people probably take for granted here: backyards.

Eric Serrano holds 4-year-old Nova Smith as they prepare to march with the Gente Indigena Collective, a group of Indigenous designers and artists, Saturday before the start of Columbus' first Latin/Hispanic Heritage Month parade.  The wings they wore represent the

Eric Serrano was dressed in black and wore orange butterfly wings to represent the “Dreamers”, those who came to this country at a young age. He belongs to the Gente Indigena collective, a group of artists and creatives.

Serrano came to Columbus from Puerto Rico in 2015 and lives in the Middle East. “We want people to know we’re here. There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. But he was also looking forward to having a fun day, he said.

Lorenzo Quiroga was with about 15 other people of Chilean origin in the parade, with women in traditional dresses and a young man wearing a black Chilean horseman’s hat.

“I think representation is important,” said Quiroga, of Grandview Heights. And he said the parade represents many Hispanic cultures like his.

“It was done by everyone for everyone,” he said.

The parade descended from the bridge and included, drumming under his left arm, Samuel James, a Dominican-born Columbus uniformed police officer. He has been with the division for over 12 years, hailing from the Bronx, New York.

“It’s awesome,” James said of the show. “It shows that we bring the community together.”

Along Civic Center Drive, Kiara Zamot, of Bexley, had a red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag draped over her shoulders. She said she didn’t know anyone in the parade but wanted to represent a legacy she is proud of.

“We’re not a big community. But we’re here,” Zamot said.

The parade ended at City Hall, in a lively display of group photos, dancing and trumpet riffs.

As the party got underway in City Hall Square, Lopez approached with a big smile. She mentioned the bad news around us a lot of the time.

But then she mentioned what was here and hundreds more on a sunny Saturday in Columbus.

“It’s a reminder of what matters,” she said.

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