As visitors to Prescott stroll down Whiskey Row and around the courthouse plaza they can get a little of the feeling of what it was like when the town was filled with cowboys, miners and horses. What’s not as clear on the surface is that Prescott itself was built by small-business owners, tradespeople and those willing to invest and take risks in the hope of finding a safe and prosperous place to raise families.
Many of these risk-takers have been people of color, migrating here in search of work from as far away as China, but most often from Mexico (not to mention those born here when ‘here’ was still part of Mexico). All those who brought Prescott into being, including the indigenous people who have always been always here, brought their own traditions and cultures that live on in this place we call home.
Today the Prescott region includes a large Hispanic population whose members are represented in all professions, faiths and parts of our community. Yet opportunities for economic and educational advancement continue to be elusive for some whose mother tongue is Spanish. Recently a group of individuals and organizations working to expand and cultivate opportunities and representation for our local Hispanic community came together formally as Hola Prescott.
“Long-term there is much work to be done. Advocacy opportunities will arise, as well as collaborations and partnerships with community organizations.” — Efrain Zavala
“We want to bring together resources and programs to better support the Hispanic community through our local institutions,” says Lisa Raygosa, manager of Yavapai College Hispanic Initiative and Outreach Programs. Participating groups include Yavapai College, Prescott College, Prescott Sister Cities, the Chamber of Commerce, Alianza News, and the Porch coffee shop, owned by Jesse Villegas. Raygosa says, “Coming together is going to be one big wealth of resources; for example, my priority is to improve the standard of living and quality of life for Hispanic residents through secondary education. That’s what I want to bring to the table.”
Efrain Zavala, associate pastor at Prescott United Methodist Church, found it interesting that when they started forming this group there were already many ongoing conversations about working to serve the Hispanic community. He would speak with someone and find they’d already had that conversation with someone else. “It kind of felt like there was a movement already, and as I was reaching out to people there were wonderful things going on already.” Efrain and Prescott College Professor Ernesto Mireles had a conversation and came up with the idea to have a fiesta that would build visibility and representation to celebrate Prescott’s Hispanic heritage.
September is National Hispanic Heritage Month
The immediate focus of the Hola Prescott committee is to host the first annual Latino American Festival, indicating the group’s intention to start an annual tradition. This year’s festival will take place on September 24, 11am to 4pm, in the main parking lot at Yavapai College.
As part of the effort to promote local Hispanic talent, local cumbia band Eclipse and local folklorico dancers will perform. Food will be available from food trucks, but Hola Prescott is aiming to provide a broader experience than food and music. In addition there will be a Human Library, where individuals representing parts of the Hispanic community will be available to speak with visitors, engage in conversation and share their stories.
Crafts and piñatas, face-painting, a posterboard display of Prescott’s Hispanic history and a raffle will be available through the day. There will be a showing of the documentary War of the Flea, and families can enjoy the animated feature Encanto on the jumbotron. Admission to the event will be free to the public.
Sukey Jones, enthusiastic longtime member and past chair of the Prescott-Caborca Sister Cities group, sees great potential in this collaboration for building community. “Hola Prescott seeks to raise the visibility of Hispanics in our community so that their contributions to the fabric of Prescott are recognized.”
Yavapai College is generously providing the location for the event, plus maintenance and setup. The group is inviting volunteers to help keep things running smoothly throughout the day or share stories as a member of the Hispanic community. To volunteer or to get involved in the efforts of Hola Prescott, contact Efrain Zavala at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the Fiesta!