Hispanic heritage celebrated in glorious living color

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, September 19, 2023

SALISBURY — Colorful skirts swirled and beautiful flags from 21 countries and territories flapped in Saturday’s breeze during what organizers hope will be the first of an annual Hispanic heritage celebration at Bell Tower Green.

Elia Gegorek of Gegorek and Associates Realty, one of the sponsors of the event, said the idea began with Vivian Koontz, event coordinator for the city, and Latoya Price, events coordinator for Downtown Development/Downtown Salisbury, Inc.

“They said they had a little bit of money to perhaps put something together, and Evelyn Medina and I jumped right in,” Gegorek said. “The Hispanic community in our city and our county has grown and grown, and it was time that our town sees our Hispanic community exists. And we couldn’t have asked for a better time, a better day, more beautiful weather. And yes, we are very hopeful that this becomes an annual event.”

Sept. 15 was the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the celebration seemed a natural way to kick it off.

There were displays of some of the traditional clothing for Hispanic cultures, dancers in traditional Hispanic attire, others dressed in traditional pieces, and of course the display of the flags. Mayor Karen Alexander presented a proclamation honoring Hispanic heritage and a number of city council members attended the event.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Gegorek is making a presentation to the Rotary Club on Hispanic Heritage, including the fact that “people struggle with what to call us, including Mexican, Hispanic, Latinx.” That’s because the Hispanic umbrella covers numerous cultures, countries, and territories, and does not represent just one place or one group of people.

“I think they need to be proud of who they are,” said Gegorek on what she hopes those who participated took from the event. “Be happy, just as you are. Many people come to this country looking for freedom, for a better way to live, a better life for their children, But we must also remain proud of who we are. It is OK that you are from another country, be both proud of your home country and this country, which truly is the land of opportunity.

“We are usually a very quiet community,” she added. “But right now, we have business owners, successful, hard workers, that were residents from 21 countries and territories, and their work has value and should be recognized.”

Because many traditional Hispanics have not seen forms of art as possibilities for professions, according to Gegorek, the group she founded, el Centro de la Comunidad Latina, is planning an art presentation at WaterWorks in October. The display will include works from students across Rowan County, expressing their heritage. The goal is two-fold, to give students a way to express pride in their heritage, and to give the Hispanic community an opportunity to see the value in art. The display will be open from Oct. 12 to Nov. 12.

The sponsors of the Hispanic Heritage Celebration this year, in addition to Gegorek’s firm, included attorney Ryan Stowe, Mean Mug Coffee, the city of Salisbury, Downtown Salisbury, and Visit Rowan, NC.