Celebrate the Latino Community with the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival 

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Celebrate the Latino Community with the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival 

The Iowa Latino Heritage Festival was started in 2002 to honor the contribution of Latinos to Iowa as well as to provide education about the culture and to teach about diversity. It is a family-friendly event that has arts and crafts vendors, a variety of diverse foods, music, dance, education about Latin American countries, and many children’s activities.

Time and Location

It is held during Hispanic Heritage Month and will be celebrated on Saturday, September 23rd from 10:00 AM-11:00 PM and Sunday, September 24th from 10:00 AM- 6:00 PM 2022 at Western Gateway Park in Downtown Des Moines.

The entrance fee is $5 for adults and children under 12 are free.

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15th through October 15th in recognition of the Latino culture and contribution to the United States. It begins on September 15th when Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua celebrate their independence from Spain.

In Iowa, Latino immigrants arrived in the 1880s to work on the railroads and to help harvest crops in the fields. Immigrants were gradually able to bring their families to the United States with the hope of creating a better life for their children through education, better housing, and more opportunities. 

Currently, Latinos are the largest minority group in Iowa with 6.7% of the population and this is expected to grow to 13% by 2050.

Meet Claudia Thrane

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month and the contribution of Latinos to Iowa, I interviewed Claudia Thrane, Vice President of the Board for the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival, founder of the bilingual podcast Que Pasa Iowa? and advocate in the Latino community. We discussed her background, advocacy work, and her involvement with the Latino Festival.

Claudia was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, the youngest of seven, and then moved to Cancun, Mexico when she was 16. Claudia came from a family that valued helping others and she volunteered with her mother from a young age and learned from her sister, who was an advocate in the community and a writer. 

She met her husband in Cancun and they moved to Des Moines, where he grew up, to be closer to his parents. They started the long process of obtaining her residency (green card) and then her citizenship. She started volunteering at her daughter’s school to teach Latino children to read and later started with a non-profit doing advocacy work. 

Que Pasa Iowa? Podcast

Claudia founded the bilingual podcast Que Pasa Iowa? to educate Latinos in the state about voting and political topics. She says many Latinos receive their information from Spanish television channels such as Telemundo, but they need a local source for information. She has interviewed many candidates and elected officials including President Biden and the United States Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

The Latino Festival and Que Pasa Iowa? work in collaboration during the festival to connect Latinos with candidates running for elected office. During the festival, Claudia and organizer Alba Pérez hold a political soapbox to interview candidates, which can be streamed on Facebook Live. She says that while candidates often speak at the Iowa State Fair, Latinos needed to hear from them directly and the soapbox provides this opportunity. 

Donate to the Latino Festival College Fund

The Latino Festival not only provides education and learning through exhibits, music, and activities but also works to give back to the community by providing $1,000 academic scholarships to Latino students. Claudia states they receive donations from local companies, but individuals can donate as well. College students can apply by September 6th for a scholarship. Applications can be completed here and those that wish to help fund scholarships can contact Festival Director Joe Gonzalez at joe@latinoheritagefestival.org

When asked about her favorite part of the festival, Claudia says,

“[The Festival] is just a little piece of my heart, my country… bringing a little piece of what I need so much.”

For families, she says this year they have a balloon artist who can make huge motorcycles and other intricate balloon designs. Kids can make pinatas and play in jumping castles.

Claudia states the Latino community has been a part of Iowa for a long time and “Latinos bring a lot to the table, and we can learn from each culture.” She says we shouldn’t just celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month but show support for the Latino community for the rest of the year. This could include supporting community leaders, standing against racism, and learning more about historical injustices such as the Zoot Suit Riots. Claudia states, “We might have a different color, accent, or language. At the end of the day, we are all the same. We all have the same needs and wishes. Acceptance and caring are the most beautiful feelings we can have toward any other human being.”

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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