By Claire Van Der Eems, Contributing Writer

Asbury students have the opportunity to celebrate a different culture this month as Hispanic Heritage Month brings the Latino Festival to downtown Lexington at Court House Plaza. Many embraced the Latino culture last weekend (September 18 and 19) at the festival, which is the largest Latino Heritage event in Kentucky and features many regional vendors who offer Latino food, crafts, art, and music.

Senior Audrey Gray, who has spent extended time in Latin American countries, felt that being at the festival was just like being back in Central America, and saw it as an opportunity for her to show her closest friends the culture that she loves.

“We had a lot of fun dancing and interacting with people around us who were from Central America. It was a blast to speak Spanish and laugh with people,” Gray said. “The food was delicious, as always, and the vendors had some really cool items from many different countries.”

“The food was definitely the highlight,” said junior Rob Reyes. Vendors lined the street with a variety of authentic foods ranging from churros to Mexican corn on the cob to spicy mangos. Crafts and other goods were also sold at the festival, simulating a traditional Latin American market. Traditional Hispanic music also played from courthouse stage throughout the weekend.

Reyes, who is studying Spanish, attended because he thought it was “a perfect opportunity to practice [his] Spanish while also experiencing a bit of Latin American culture.” Although he didn’t practice as much as he hoped, he particularly enjoyed Friday’s flag parade where each of the Latin American countries was represented. Reyes said, “it was really cool for me to see their flag parade and how much pride they have for their culture.”

The festival finds relevance to the Hispanic culture in light of Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on September 15 and concludes on October 15. For Gray, the Latino Festival is an opportunity for students “to experience and be immersed in cultures other than your own, and to see how people live life differently.”

In the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, Asbury looks for ways to celebrate the Latino culture.

A recent effort by Asbury’s Latino Student Alliance (LSA) has resulted in a chapel scheduled for November 2016. Although the date is not yet set, this chapel will include authentic Spanish worship music and a sermon on the importance of embracing diversity in the Hispanic church.

Melina Martinez, president of LSA who has played an integral part in the scheduling of this chapel, says that her biggest hope is that it “opens the eyes of Asbury [so that] they can enjoy the Hispanic culture with us.”

As Asbury seeks new ways to celebrate diversity, Martinez encourages students to get involved by contributing ideas that will help us better appreciate other cultures. Gray also encouraged students in this, saying “it is good to simply be with people from other countries, see them for who they are, and see what they have to contribute to our great nation.”