Flavor by Number.

This past weekend marked the first ever iSabor! Latin Festival at SteelStacks. And because I have not an ounce of Latin in me, I was uncertain if I would be able to relate to a festival that celebrated flavor. Would a bland white woman from Lehigh be able to move it, move it?

I represented the 71% slice of the university ethnicity pie graph, and there I was investigating what the second biggest slice, 7%, was all about. Though this percentage is listed as “Hispanic,” I have done my Google research and concluded that white people don’t know how to be politically correct when it comes to talking about ethnicity. This may or may not be because “white” refers to a skin color and not at all a particular ethnicity or heritage. In truth, a white person is, most times, an average mutt of European cultures. Which may or may not explain why the US white Census groups the two terms, Hispanic and Latino, together as one; reasoning, “Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion.”

In a 2009 Slate magazine article by Christopher Beam, the debate between Hispanic and Latino could not have been better fitting for Lehigh University and Bethlehem. “Ultimately, there is no strict definition of Hispanic or Latino. The College Board, which administers the SAT, leaves it up to the student to self-identify. The U.S. Census Bureau makes no distinction between the two terms. It defines Hispanics and Latinos as ‘persons who trace their origin or descent to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spanish speaking Central and South America countries, and other Spanish cultures.’ But if someone from Brazil says he’s Hispanic, the census doesn’t say, No, you’re not.”

This makes me wonder if our second biggest school population is being represented accurately…

As I made my way through the festival, I took note of the audience. Was this a festival for Latin people to celebrate themselves or for white people to step outside of themselves? The truth is, it was both. In all honesty, it was the essence of sharing. There was music and dancing at the Air-products Town Square and vendors selling food, clothing, and jewelry in PNC Plaza. Though I would say that the percentages were reversed and I was now in the minority, I didn’t mind learning about everything I was unfamiliar with. In fact, that is precisely why I love writing and the arts: it transcends self-imposed boundaries and connects people on a human and if you’re lucky, spiritual level.

So for me, it wasn’t about numbers and assigning them a supposed significance. It was about the context. In the shadows of the long-firing steel burners, where there once was dirt and dust and whole lot of gray, there was now the bustling of people walking, singing, dancing, moving. There was flavor, and there was color. Above all else, there was life. I can think of no better way for ArtsQuest to have kicked off its 10-festival schedule than with iSabor!


One comment

  1. Arts Quest represents people of all ethnicities. South Bethlehem has a large and growing Hispanic community adding to the very rich heritage of the full flavor of the place. iSobor was a fabulous way for AQ to kick off its first festival season. They were lucky to hire Olga Negron as the director of the Levitt Pavilion. Olga’s Hispanic heritage, energy, and effervescent personality make her a true asset to Steel Stacks. She has a way of bringing together the various and varied citizens of Bethlehem that will be so very important as Stacks moves on into the tourism area it was designed to accomplish.

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