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October 24, 2015: Dia de la Raza
Nearly 500 visitors met at the Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts on Saturday, October 24, 2015 for the first ever Culture & Arts Festival: Dia de la Raza.  The family festival of Latino cultures was a free community event featuring live music, dance lessons, art projects, a screening of the PBS series Latino Americans, and authentic Hispanic food provided by local food vendor, Los Tres Hermanos.

Thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, and Humanities Washington, as well as a partnership between the Puyallup School District and the Broadway Center for Performing Arts, the festival was well advertised and culturally authentic, featuring professional Latino musicians and professional ballet folklórico instructors.

Dia de la Raza means “Day of the People” and is a celebration of the many cultures which make up Latino identities across the Americas.  Families were encouraged to bring children for art projects created in the styles of amate bark painting, papél picado cut-paper designs, and Huichol-inspired yarn paintings.  Each table of the art classroom was filled with eager young artists nearly all day long.

Instructors from Bailadores de Bronce, Washington’s premier company of Mexican dance, provided two sessions for visitors to learn to dance ballet folklórico.  Each session was filled with participants from the very young to adult.  Girls wore brightly colored skirts on loan from Puyallup School District’s Ballet Folklórico program, and all dancers learned an authentic dance from beginning to end.  The final performance earned enthusiastic applause from onlookers.
One visitor from Urban Sketchers Tacoma captured a snapshot of several dancers learning the scarf dance.  Pat Graham, says she “popped in for what I thought would be maybe an hour and ended up staying till almost closing time.”  In that time, she recorded some of the dance instruction and music performance from the event.

Two concerts were performed by the lively quintet Pachanga Alert!, providing a festive atmosphere featuring the music of Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina.  Cuban vocalist and guitarist, Alejandro Fleites, Yakima-based guitarists Sandra Aguilar and Gema Aguilar, Yakima Symphony violinist Stephanie Hsu, and local percussionist and educator Antonio Gómez entertained visitors with two unique concerts which at one point inspired spontaneous dancing among members of the crowd.

The doors opened at noon to a line of eager visitors and didn’t close again until after 5:00 pm.  The entire museum was open to the public.  Visitors seemed eager to play in the covered wagon, one-room schoolhouse, and general store in the recently re-opened Pioneer Room.  Two other exhibits, What Does a Scientist Do? And The Rhythm and Colors of Africa were also well-received.

“Dia de la Raza may just become an annual event,” said event manager Lynda Belt.  “The response from our community, as seen in the number of people who came out today, tells us that we need more of these kinds of events.”