Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival is a true cultural celebration in the heart of Iowa


About 10,000 people will come to Des Moines this month to celebrate the history and culture of the Latin American community as well as the contributions it has made to Iowa.


Attendees to this year’s festival will see traditional Latin American foods from countries that include Cuba, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina, and a variety of entertainment from martial arts performers to folkloric dancers, artists’ works and displays about the history of Latin American cultures. New this year are more entertainment opportunities for children, more emphasis on healthy lifestyles, and a special display about immigrant migration to Iowa.


Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 23 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 24 at Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines. Cost to attend is $5 for adults and $1 for children 12 and younger.



The festival website,, gives more details about the entertainment, volunteer information and more. The festival will be promoted through social media sites Instagram and Facebook with #ialatinoheritagefestival.


Festival adds more activities for all ages


Organizers hope to draw more people from across the state to attend by emphasizing that Des Moines is a day drive from almost anywhere in Iowa, said Joe Gonzalez, executive director of Latino Resources Inc., the umbrella organizations that oversees the festival.


“We hope Iowans from across the state will join us for this special event and the opportunity to experience Latin American culture and history,” he said.


The marketing materials for this year’s festival will feature the design of Shannon Rodriguez, a senior at Grand View University in Des Moines. Rodriguez received a $1,000 scholarship for winning the poster contest.


Children’s activities include mini soccer demonstrations, information about programs and activities at Des Moines Playhouse, a piñata breaking every hour, art activities, face painting at a cost and much more. The Des Moines Fire Department will be on site with a firetruck, and families can learn more about fire safety through the Fire Safety House. There will be a live art component at this year’s festival, and veterans’ artwork will be featured in the art tent.



This year’s health village will double in size and offer blood typing and blood pressure readings. The American Heart Association will teach and demonstrate hands-free CPR techniques. There also will be Zumba classes and interactive health stations.


Chef Tania will give cooking demonstrations and show how to make healthy Latino meals. This year’s theme is “Bienvenidos a Costa Rica.” Demonstrations will take place at noon, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on the Saturday of the festival, and noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday.


“We wanted to offer something for everyone from our youngest to oldest visitors,” Gonzalez said. “We also know that obesity, diabetes and other conditions affect our community at a higher rate. We want our festival to serve as an educational tool to address some of these issues and to begin to combat them.”


LHF 1Entertainment includes an elote (corn) eating contest at 6 p.m. Saturday, the “Lucha Libre” wresting show where good guys take on bad guys. There will be entertainment all day long both days



Mariachi Azteca, DJ Fito, Los Ninos del Tepeyec, Brazilian Moves, Jovenes Embajadores, Yamir, Revolucion de Amor, La Obra, DJ Julian; DJ Problema, Son de Peru, El Toque and Los Parranderos Latin Combo.



Cultural celebration raises awareness


Components of the festival celebrate the history and culture and the Latin American countries present in Iowa. The festival began about 17 years ago and has grown as Iowa’s Latino population has soared. There are now more than 178,620 Latino residents in Iowa, according to the State Data Center of Iowa. Latinos represent 5.7 percent of the state’s total population.


LHF ScholarshipsThe festival serves as a way not only to inform the public about the Latino community, but as a way for the business community and others to reach out to Latinos and distribute information about health care, jobs and more. Businesses now often request bilingual employees. Human resources officials from various corporations come to the event to find prospective employees.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the non-Latino community to come see our traditions, learn about our culture and discover the role our community can play in Iowa’s workforce,” Gonzalez says.

The Parade of Nations will feature the United States and Iowa flags, along with 20 Latin American nations and Spain. The parade will take place during the opening ceremonies of the festival at 1 p.m. Saturday near the main stage, as well as a couple of other times during the festival.


“We wanted a way to showcase the colorful flags of all of the nations represented in Iowa,” Gonzalez said. “This will be an opportunity for those at the festival to see the colors of each country.”


During the opening ceremonies, organizers will recognize several key contributors and sponsors. Rodriguez will receive her plaque and be honored for winning the poster contest. Polk County Board of Supervisors will be recognized for being a platinum sponsor for the festival. Bravo, Nationwide and Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino will be acknowledged for being gold level sponsors.


New this year is the presentation of the Latino Business Leadership Award to two individuals from the community.


“Every year I want to highlight people who are doing good things in the community and businesses,” Gonzalez said.


The cultural village will feature displays about the history of and artifacts from Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Spain.


“These booths provide a deeper cultural understanding of the nuances and differences in the Latino community,” Gonzalez says.


Migration is Beautiful, a special initiative from the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries will be at the festival. It speaks about how migration shaped Iowa’s history, first by the Native Americans and later by migration paths of immigrants from across the globe.


Part of the website and display features Latinos and their contributions to Iowa’s economic, social and cultural history.


Poster 11 x 19

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