Bilingual organizations keep Hispanic community informed as COVID cancels annual festival


ST. LOUIS – Hispanic Culture can be heard, tasted, and seen all across the St. Louis region.

The annual Hispanic Heritage Festival was canceled due to COVID-19. It was set to happen Sept. 25-27 in Soulard.

“We couldn’t in good faith have that event and feel good about it being as healthy as it could be, so to keep it safe, we just decided it would be the best interest to postpone it to next year,” said Elisa Bender, Hispanic Festival board member.

“The Hispanic community is very diverse, being Hispanic means you have heritage from a Spanish speaking country so that means Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina and Chile,” Alejandro Santiago, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis membership manager, said. “All those different countries have their own different cultures and food and dance and very very different so when we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month we’re celebrating many many different countries and the individuals, groups of people with different mentalities and different cultures..”

But the Hispanic community’s impact stretches far past this month of celebration. Amid a pandemic, it’s important to keep the community informed and connected and two organizations in St. Louis use their bilingual resources to do just that.

Cecilia Velazquez owns Red Latina Communications, a bilingual newspaper and online publication based out of downtown St. Louis.

She said the lack of information for the Hispanic community in 2000 is what sparked her to create the newspaper.

“Because Hispanics are here to stay here,” she said.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis is also helping the community stay connected. Both organizations are translating information from officials into Spanish to make sure their community understands.

“It’s really important to know what is going on,” Velazquez said. “If we have new information that it needs to be spread, that’s why it’s really important for companies like mine.”

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis makes sure that businesses can reach the Hispanic community in St. Louis and that Hispanic businesses have resources to make their operations run smoothly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that has included offering resources to change business models and make sure they are following local regulations.

“How to do a Facebook Live, or how to navigate PPE, or how to access this loan, step-by-step so they could navigate how to do it and we would do that in English and Spanish,” he added.

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