Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Celebración Latina

October 31st, 2012

A few weeks ago on October 14, members of the New Orleans community gathered at the Audubon Zoo for Celebración Latina, a festival offering a true taste of Latin American culture in New Orleans. Visitors were entertained by local groups including Vivaz, AsheSon, Sensacion, OVI-G and the Froggies, and DJ Sosa. The zoo planned special Chats and Feeds, highlighting animals from South America and environmental issues, including a Cuban Amazon Parrot Talk. Local artisans and from Guatemala sold handmade crafts, and social service, health and education organizations offered information on wellness, education, and social service. Delicious food was available for purchase from Felipe’s Taqueria, Brazilian Market, and Celina’s.

This year’s Celebración Latina is part of an eight year tradition that began in 2004 with the inauguration of the Pebbles Center, a collaboration of The Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the New Orleans Public Library. The Pebbles Center works to “enhance the learning and lives of the children of our city by offering them resources and opportunities to experience the rich diversity of Latin America and its people.” Celebración Latina was envisioned as part of an effort to integrate and expose the Pebbles Center to the New Orleans community and for the first years of its existence it took place in Laurence Square, where the Pebbles Center is located in the Children’s Resource Center library branch.

Throughout the years, Celebración Latina has collaborated with the Hispanic Apostolate of New Orleans to bring local Latino artists, musicians, and food to the festival. The event is planned to be family friendly, with crafts, music, and food to appeal to all ages. Some past events have included workshops in Andean folk music and Brazilian drumming. Celebración Latina also works with community partners like Habitat for Humanity and the Latin American Civic Association of Louisiana, who attend the festival and provide community outreach.

The festival has gradually grown in size and importance. In 2010 it became clear that the Celebración had outgrown Laurence Square. Coinciding with the bicentennial of Venezuela’s independence, Celebración Latina moved to the Audubon Zoo and began an exciting partnership with the Audubon Institute. In honor of the bicentennial, the first Celebración Latina at the zoo was organized in collaboration with the Venezuelan Consulate. The Consulate sponsored an art show, and the festival featured Venezuelan food.

The partnership with the Audubon Institute has been a great success for Celebración Latina. Eileen Johnson of the Audubon Institute had this to say about the festival:

“Audubon Nature Institute is delighted to partner with the Stone Center to offer this family experience to the local community, particularly to the Latin American community in the metro area.

With the world-class Audubon Zoo as a backdrop, the festival features live local entertainment, delicious authentic Latin American cuisine, and grants access to local families who would not otherwise be able to visit the Zoo. In fact thanks to sponsors like the Stone Center, we were able to offer over 2,700 free admissions to the Zoo and the festival this year!

Celebración Latina is expanding both in attendance and prominence, and it is our hope to develop it into one of the largest celebrations of the Latin American culture in New Orleans. The best is yet to come!”

BP America, Incorporated, Jefferson Financial Credit Union, Pan-American Life Insurance Group and Amerigroup were Contributing Sponsors of the 2012 Celebración Latina.
Photos courtesy of Dennis Woltering, 2012.