OCEANSIDE — In spite of the rain, thousands flocked to MiraCosta’s Oceanside campus on Sept. 28 to celebrate books, learning, and Latinx culture.
This year’s Latino Book & Family Festival hosted about 30 authors, 130 exhibitors and a few dozen workshops, performances and presentations — all meant to encourage education and literacy in all walks of life.
“It’s a great way to bring our community to our campus to promote literacy, not only for our children, but at all levels,” said Lisa Montes, co-chair of the festival planning committee.
The festival drew 5,000 attendees total, exceeding last year’s numbers, said Montes. She said the highlight of the event was a packed, yet intimate talk by famous actor Edward James Olmos, also the co-producer of the Latino Book & Family Festival. Olmos is known for his roles in films such as “Blade Runner,” “Selena” and “Coco.”
Although it was only MiraCosta’s third year hosting the event, the festival has a formidable history in San Diego and beyond. The event began in Los Angeles in 1997, and has since branched out to Houston, Dallas, and Chicago, with more cities to come.
Locally, the festival was held for many years at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and later, the convention center in downtown San Diego.
But for 10 years, the festival stopped running in San Diego. A few years ago, Montes and others started thinking of ways to bring it back.
“We got the support from Mira Costa — they said let’s do it, this is a win-win,” Montes said. “… It’s been a great three years just building the program and bringing more people in.”
The event is a broad and multi-faceted effort that requires a year of planning and coordination. Preparation for the festival has even been multi-national in the past — the Mexican Consulate in Tijuana was a sponsor in the event’s first year, and now they continue to host a booth.
Although the festival is operated by Latino Literacy Now, a nonprofit, Montes said the event relies heavily on sponsors. Local supporters include MAAC, Loyola Press, MiraCosta College and the International Latino Book Awards — to name a few.
Montes estimates that about 100 volunteers helped with the event, about 25 of which were participants in MiraCosta’s Puentes Project — a program that promotes leadership and helps prepare students for transfer to a four-year college or university.
The festival was split up into villages sprawled across the MiraCosta campus, with areas focused on community, education, health and enterprise.
Community groups from across the county came to provide information and meet with attendees — the Oceanside Unified School District, San Diego Sheriff’s Department and League of Women Voters all had informational booths.
The festival brought together a number of merchants selling Mexican artisan goods and jewelry, with food vendors also selling popular Mexican snacks, food and beverages. Performers Jesus Chente Moreno, Ballet Folklorico Cultural de San Bernardino and Jexci provided musical interludes to the various talks and presentations.
The authors village gave writers an opportunity to speak directly with readers, connect with one another and gain exposure. Author Patricia Siciliano, from Glendora, California, said the event gave her the chance to exchange ideas with other authors.
She said the name — Latino Book & Family Festival — sold her from the outset.
“It’s a chance for me to present my books in Spanish as well as in English,” she said.
Author and MiraCosta Professor Karla Cordero came to share not only her own work, but a book of poetry put together by one of her classes.
She said the event offered her a way of advocating for both her students, and the local Latinx community.
“It’s not very often you see this many Latinx or Chicanx come together to celebrate literacy,” said Cordero.
Montes said the festival committee will start gearing up for next year’s Latino Book & Family Festival in the coming month.