As protests in response to the U.S. practice of separating families at the border continued for the sixth day, Philadelphia Latinos exercised another form of resistance this weekend: celebrating their culture — in a political climate where Latino advocates say their communities are under attack — at the annual Hispanic Fiesta on Penn’s Landing.
About 30,000 people were expected to attend the two-day festival, organized by El Concilio and now in its 37th year, said spokesperson Melanie Nieves. They come to dance to bomba music, to learn about health-care options, and to drink piña coladas and eat mangos carved into flowers and dusted with chili-lime powder.
Nearly 215,000 Latinos live in Philadelphia, according to census estimates, and more than six out of 10 are Puerto Rican.
We asked attendees what it’s like to live as a Latino in Trump’s America.
Elizabeth Rosario, 34, outreach coordinator at Philadelphia Health Management Corp., a Puerto Rican from North Philly
“At work, we struggle a lot with building relationships with individuals who have limited documentation. Fear sets in, trust issues come in. When we’re trying to talk to them about resources, we tell them, ‘We need your name, your phone number, your address,’ and they’re like, ‘Are you gonna send ICE out?’
That’s why this event is important. It’s attended by the entire tri-state area and exposes individuals to what kinds of resources are available. It promotes them in their language and in a culturally appropriate way. It also celebrates the Latino culture, not just Puerto Rican culture, or Mexican culture, or Dominican culture. It eases tension among the Latino community, it’s a safe space.”
Aaron Rodriguez, 23, civil-engineering student at Temple University and member of Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity, whose father is from Acapulco, Mexico, and mother is from El Salvador
“Unfortunately we find that a lot of people in poverty are people like us. Role models are really important. My father is a landscaper and my mom is a cleaner. I thought I was going to be a landscaper but if I saw people like me doing other kinds of jobs, I’d think I could be like that.
“Trump really wants us out of here. So it’s pushing us to do more [for the community].”
Daly Blanco, 72, director of public relations for El Sol newspaper, Puerto Rican from North Philly
“Sometimes when I’m driving to my daughter’s house, the police stop me, even if I don’t do nothing. They ask me, where are you from? I tell them, ‘I’m Puerto Rican.’ But what if I was from Mexico? The white police officers, they treat us differently.”
Pete Rios, 60, business manager of the Philadelphia chapter of the Latino American Motorcycle Association, half-Irish and half-Puerto Rican
“I don’t want to talk about politics. We come out to give back to our people. We volunteer as security for this event, for the Puerto Rican Day parade, for events at City Hall.”
Charlize DeLeon, 17, student at Tyler School of Art, Puerto Rican from North Philly
“One of our friends, he says [people] don’t take kindly to him speaking Spanish. It bothers me because we’re all people. We’re all the same. We’re all equal, it doesn’t matter if we speak Spanish.”