In a time when negative stereotypes regarding the Hispanic community are abundant, the HoLa Festival invites the East Tennessee community to learn more about their neighbors to the south.
In its 14th year, HoLa Festival, a celebration of Hispanic culture, is working to break down these barriers in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage month on Saturday.
Sophia Rubio, a freshman in Biology, offered firsthand insights into the stereotypes being half-Mexican, half-Colombian.
"I think that some stereotypes that people see towards the Hispanic culture, especially here in the U.S., is that as a whole we are uneducated and all Hispanics do is hard labor," she said. "If people would take the time to look at the country that the immigrants come from, then more people would realize that not everyone is who you think they are."
Rosa Mar, HoLa's media contact, hopes to create communication between races.
"We want to promote a positive Latino image and provide a cultural experience while opening up the communication between Latinos and non-Latinos," Mar said. "I think there is a stereotype that can be created through the media, and this is an opportunity to dispel those."
HoLa, the organization that presents the festival, promotes unity in the community by creating art, cultural and communication bridges between Latinos and the larger community, encouraging education, participation and leadership.
In the effort to educate, the festival makes a point to present all Hispanic countries, according to DeAnn Pendry, professor in anthropology.
"The festival celebrates all of Latino culture which includes Central and South America when typically people only think of Mexico," Pendry said.
At HoLa Festival, attendees can travel through the countries without ever leaving the city.
"At the fair, there are booths with information about the different countries, so the festival is a learning experience as well," Mar said. "We provided a passport a child can buy, then they can visit the booths, get a stamp with the flag from that country, and learn something. It's a real intercultural experience."
In addition to education about Latino diversity, social issues are also addressed.
"There are also different organizations that can inform the public about immigrant rights and other issues for other cultures," Pendry said.
However, the festival is more than an educational event. It is set to emphasize a celebration of the culture for the whole community.
Batukealo, a Puerto Rican percussion band and Willie Ziavino & C.O.T. Band, a Latin jazz band from Atlanta, will headline the event, providing Hispanic music along with dancing demonstrations throughout the day.
The Parade of Nations is HoLa's entertainment highlight. At 1:30 p.m. each Latino country will be represented through music, traditional dress and dancing.
"It's a really big draw for families," Mar said, "and kids love it."
Approximately 16 vendors representing all of the Hispanic culture from Mexico to Bolivia to the Dominican Republic will be selling food and crafts to allow the public to taste and bring HoLa Festival home.
Rubio, having moved from California to attend UT, looks forward to the event to make a real connection with Knoxville.
"I really like what the HoLa Festival is doing within the community to promote more diversity within all the people of Knoxville," she said. "Also, it can give me a chance to meet other Hispanic people and share my personal traditions that I have with my family."
All in all, Mar said she wants the festival to promote open dialogue and celebration of culture.
"Latinos are a cornerstone in the future of Knoxville," Mar said. "HoLa Festival allows the city to experience the flavors and music of the different countries while opening up communication."