At “Fiesta Latina,” A Community Comes Together in Celebration

It was a sunny September day when I arrived in Wilmington, Delaware for Fiesta Latina—an annual celebration hosted by the Latin American Community Center (LACC). The outdoor event, which honors National Hispanic Heritage Month, took place in the Hilltop neighborhood where LACC first opened its doors over 50 years ago.

LACC provides crucial services including early childhood education, family support services, financial empowerment and health promotion. The CDC Foundation supports LACC’s ConeXiones program, which launched in September 2020 and provides education about COVID-19 and links community members to important health resources. Community members rely on LACC as a trusted resource for the most up to date, accurate health information, and over the past year, LACC has provided more than 500 COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

Fiesta Latina is the organization’s biggest event of the year, and the atmosphere was joyous as friends and neighbors exchanged hugs and caught up on local happenings. There were decorative centerpieces made of tropical fruit and greenery on every table, along with plenty of homemade salsa. In addition, LACC staff prepared recipes from their home countries to share with the crowd, each food tray marked with the corresponding country flag. The food was a reflection of Hispanic heritage and pride. With dishes from Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, the Dominican Republic and many more, there was a sense among the crowd that we were gathering around a kind of collective family table. After lunch, Jarabe Mixteco folk dancers in full costume performed for the crowd, followed by traditional Mexican guitar music played by LACC staff member Juan Hernández.

Relationships are key to the organization’s success, and LACC president and CEO Maria Matos has forged lasting partnerships on every level of local government. High-level public officials attending Fiesta Latina included Delaware’s governor, lieutenant governor, both U.S. senators, Wilmington’s mayor and several city councilmembers. At one point, the entire crowd sang an exuberant happy birthday to Delaware Senator Chris Coons, who addressed the crowd in Spanish. As each of the local leaders spoke, I got the impression that Maria has spent a lot of time in their offices, tirelessly advocating for her community. Governor John Carney acknowledged her efforts, remarking that no one has done more for the community when it comes to COVID-19 than Maria Matos, and it was clear the crowd agreed.

Also attending Fiesta Latina were many residents from Los Jardines, a low-cost senior living facility in the neighborhood where LACC has been offering weekly COVID-19 testing and vaccination through their ConeXiones program. Access to vaccines and testing has given many older members in the Latino community the confidence to enjoy events like this one and the opportunity to re-engage after long months of isolation. For those who were still in need of vaccination, LACC partner organization Chesapeake Regional RX Pharmacy was on site during Fiesta Latina to provide vaccines, and LACC surprised the pharmacy with an award for the work they’ve done during the pandemic to ensure that their community has access to vaccines.

Throughout the Fiesta Latina celebration, I was struck by how much the crowd enjoyed the company of their friends and neighbors. I thought back to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it separated so many of us from the people we love. Through their ongoing work to make vaccines available to more people, LACC brought their community back together again. An event like this is a powerful reminder of just how joyful and healing that togetherness can be.

Photo Credit: Moonloop Photography/CDC Foundation

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $22,724,994 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.

Caitlyn Gudmundsen, MPH, MDiv, is a program officer for the CDC Foundation’s department of infectious disease programs.