A fiesta unites

Cultures mesh to celebrate Mexican Independence Day

— Good food, good fun, good music.

That's how Steamboat Springs resident Ernesto Perez and his family summed up Saturday's Third Annual Northwestern Colorado Mexican Indepen-

dence Day Celebration and Benefit for Comunidad Integrada.

"It's a good thing for all the Spanish people, and I'm glad the city gives it a chance, time and place to celebrate," said Perez, who also attended last year's celebration. "It's a pretty important thing for the Mexican people to remember their Independence Day."

Mexican Independence Day, the largest celebration in Mexico, commemorates the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence, the country's push to separate from colonial Spanish rule.

About 300 people attended the four-hour event Saturday at West Lincoln Park. Visitors were treated to an assortment of performances including salsa dancing and Mariachi music.

Summer Laws, director of Comunidad Integrada, a public service group committed to supporting and promoting the successful integration of immigrants and residents of Moffat and Routt counties, said rain and snowy weather may have kept some people from coming out Saturday. Despite the inclement weather, the event was a success because it meshed two cultures together.

"I really do think we did pretty well," Laws said. "The whole point of this festival is to bring people together from different backgrounds and I think we achieved that goal.

"This was a total community event that everyone could come and enjoy."

Laws said she believed the attendance was split evenly between people of Latino and Anglo backgrounds.

She listed the performance of a troupe of a dozen girls -- ranging in ages from 6 to 13 years old -- who performed a traditional Mexican folkloric dance Saturday as one of the event's highlights. The girls, half from Mexico, half from the United States, endlessly practiced for Saturday's performance, Laws said.

Another highlight was the appearance of Juan Marcos Gutierrez Gonzalez, general consul of the Mexican consulate in Denver.

"The fact that he made it to our small event was great," Laws said.

Comunidad Integrada also honored four community leaders Saturday for their "outstanding contributions in bringing immigrants and locals together."

The organization recognized Maria Martin as volunteer of the year, The Yampa Valley Community Foundation as philanthropist of the year, Windemere Landscape and Garden Center as business of the year and Partners in Routt County as non-profit organization of the year.

Laws said next year's event will attempt to broaden its audience by appealing to Central and South American cultures and will be renamed to the Festival of Americas.

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