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The second annual "Latin America Thrives in Philadelphia" event took place on Friday, Sept. 30. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
The second annual "Latin America Thrives in Philadelphia" event took place on Friday, Sept. 30. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

A cultural event showcasing how Latin America thrives in Philadelphia

Alianza Latina, along with the Office of Councilman At-Large David Oh, hosted its annual event celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at LOVE Park.

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On Friday, September 30, LOVE Park served as the venue for the second annual “Latin America Thrives in Philadelphia” event.

This event is hosted by the Office of Councilman At-Large David Oh, and is the brainchild of Alianza Latina. The organization, co-founded in early 2020 by four community leaders of Latin American descent, was originally started to promote civic engagement among Latinos in Philadelphia during election season.

However, the organization grew to become much more after the team came across a glaring realization. 

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DIA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Ana Omana, one of the co-founders of Alianza Latina, said that once the team started working together, they realized the different communities that make up Latin Americans in Philadelphia were often separated. 

“Each community did their thing, we wanted all of them together like a coalition,” Omana told AL DÍA. 

While working for Councilman At-Large David Oh, Omana brought an idea to the table of creating an event to help bring the Latin American communities in Philadelphia together. 

Councilman Oh quickly supported the idea, leading to the first “Latin America Thrives in Philadelphia” event in 2021, where 11 countries across the Latin American diaspora participated.

“Whenever we could find something that people have in common — like a common language, a common religion, a common love of a sport, or something like that — we can bring people together,” Councilman Oh told AL DÍA about why he supported the idea.

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The “Latin America Thrives in Philadelphia” event is a cultural celebration that promotes Latin American artisans, food, organizations, and entrepreneurs.  

One year later, the number of countries represented grew to 15, including Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Argentina, and others. 

More than 30 vendors participated during the second annual edition of the cultural event representing those nations. 

“That’s what we really wanted, to celebrate being Latino [and] what it means to be Latino,” said Omana. “No matter where you are specifically from, we are all Latinos.”

In addition to the vendors, a number of individuals provided remarks at the event, including three Consul Generals — Panama’s Georgia Athanasopulos, Dominican Republic’s Alexis Henriquez, and Mexico’s Carlos Obrador Garrido Cuesta. 

After the Consul Generals provided their remarks, a group of women showcased colorful dresses and accessories that represented their respective countries, and regions within their countries. 

Photo: Jensen Toussaint
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The event also featured a keynote address from Martin Alfaro, AL DÍA’s Director of Business Development.

He shared his journey from being born in Honduras to being raised in Palm Beach, Florida, to launching a new chapter in his life and career in Philadelphia. 

Alfaro was the first in his family to attend college, navigating a world in which he didn’t have anyone close to him to help show him the way. Growing up, he rarely saw individuals who looked like him in key positions of power or in non-stereotypical roles. 

As he reached later in his life, he started to understand the importance of representation.

After college, Alfaro moved to Philadelphia, determining that he wanted to live in a big city.

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

“I moved here without knowing a single person, no family, literally nobody, it was just me,” he said. “I moved here with a desire to build a career and find success.”

Within a few years, he found that success, becoming the business development leader for the premier bilingual news media publication in the city. 

“Years later, I can tell you that it was all worth it,” he added.

Today, he works for a company whose mission is to tell stories, uplift voices, and highlight the contributions that individuals of Latin American descent make in our city and country every single day. 

Alfaro left the audience with three pieces of advice: You don’t have to play one single role; building a network is important; and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

There also included a number of musical performances, including from Venezuelan musicians Manuela Romero and Alex Moreno; as well as Panamanian native Odin Palacio, also known as Udini La Voz.

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Another key initiative of the event was the opportunity to showcase and highlight the hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners within Philadelphia’s Latin American community. 

Omana shared that many of the entrepreneurs in attendance don’t often have a brick and mortar store to really showcase their products.

“It’s important to lift them up,” said Omana. “We want to showcase whatever they have at events like this so hopefully we can help get them some business.”

Councilman Oh, who has been a staunch supporter of both the Latin American community and small business community in Philadelphia, also presented a resolution designating September 30 as “Latin American Entrepreneur Day” in Philadelphia.

Photo: Jensen Toussaint
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The “Latin America Thrives in Philadelphia” event serves to highlight the tremendous impact that Latin Americans make in the city on a daily basis, beyond just during Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Already looking ahead to next year’s edition, Omana hopes to see the event continue to grow, represent even more countries and become a staple in the city. 

“We want this to become a brand name during Hispanic Heritage Month. That is my goal,” she said. 

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