Iowa Latino Heritage Offers Educational Experience to Everyone

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Latino Heritage Festival wraps up the summer festival season this weekend. Its culture was put on display in Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines, helping to bring the rich culture to life.

"We come here to share our culture and learn other cultures as well," says Bea Gallo-Ray, a patron of the event.

The festival prides itself on educational experiences. Cultural education booths line the streets, as well as live demonstrations.

"They are not just dancing. They're learning about the Mexican culture. They may never go to Mexico. But if they hear the music, they will know where it's from," she says.

Gallo-Ray's dance studio has performed at the festival since its start in 2001. For Carla Martinez's family, this is only the second visit to the event. She says it's a learning experience for everyone.

"We're Mexican but there are a lot of Peruvian and Puerto Ricans here. There is a lot for us to learn," Martinez says.

In Iowa, Hispanics make up nearly six percent of the population. According to the State Date Center of Iowa, that number is expected to double within the next 30 years. As the Latino community continues to grow, Martinez stresses the importance of cultural festivals.

"There are a lot of Hispanics and Latinos in Des Moines. For us to be able to come together like this...to learn more about Hispanic culture...is amazing," she says.

The festival raises money for college scholarships and to help fund school cultural education nights.