Evanston celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with monthlong programming


Illustration by Gemma DeCetra

Evanston is hosting a variety of events this Hispanic Heritage Month.

Selena Kuznikov, Assistant City Editor

Evanston celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month with a multitude of celebrations this year, ranging from worry doll making kits to community-wide events.

Approximately 12% of Evanston residents identify as Hispanic or Latino/a/e, according to United Census Bureau data. Additionally, 8,778 people who identify as Hispanic live in Evanston –– almost double the 4,541 residents counted in 2000.

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off Sept. 15 and ended Oct. 15. Here’s a few of the many events that celebrated the major increase in Hispanic-identifying residents in Evanston.

Latinos en Evanston North Shore’s Celebración de la Herencia Hispana

Latinos en Evanston North Shore, a nonprofit grassroots organization founded in 2016, hosted their Celebración de la Herencia Hispana (Hispanic Heritage Celebration) at James Park on Oct. 2. The event included traditional dancing and hosted Latine individuals from surrounding suburbs including Niles, Skokie and Glenview. 

LENS president Mercedes Fernández said she and four other women that lead the organization all work full-time jobs. As a nonprofit organization with no funding from grants or institutions, LENS sells tamales and hosts various fundraising events to support opportunities like Celebración de la Herencia Hispana.

“It’s a part of our mission as a nonprofit organization to celebrate our traditions and cultural events,” Fernández said. “This is a way for us to highlight Latinos’ contribution to American society.”

Una Fiesta Hispana

Evanston Pride, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting the full spectrum of LGBTQIA+ community members, hosted its Una Fiesta Hispana event Sep. 29 at Fountain Square. The event included a Flamenco dance performance, Mariachi Sirenas and lotería games, among other entertainment. 

Latina and Latino Studies Prof. Myrna Garcia attended the event with her daughter. Garcia said she loved hearing the all-female mariachi band and seeing the diversity and complexity of the Latine community.

“I think it’s really important for Evanston to also see that we are here as a community, beyond the stereotypes that people may have or narrow views,” Garcia said, “but just to see us laugh and have fun and get to know one another.”

City-led celebrations

Evanston, as a part of its “My City, Your City, Our City” initiative, hosted its community celebration Sep. 24 at Elks Park. Community members were invited to enjoy free food from Cocina Azteca and partake in a traditional clothing competition, button making and more. The event also included a showing of the movie Encanto as part of the Starlight Movies in the Park series.

Throughout the entire month, the Robert Crown Branch Library hosted a “100% Hispanic and 100% American” display. To feature how Hispanic-identifying individuals have shaped the U.S. with their “talents, vitality and hard work,” the exhibit highlighted Latine contributions in sports, challenges faced by Latine LGBTQIA+ communities and Latinas’ contributions to the U.S. workforce. 

Evanston Public Library’s Main Library also invited residents to a competition of lotería and other games on Sep. 25, complete with traditional Mexican snacks and small prizes at the Main Children’s Room.

Hispanic and Latinx Owned Business Month

Robert Crown Branch and Main Library ran a program during the month to support local Hispanic- and Latine-owned businesses. 

Both locations offered a punch card with a list of Latine owned businesses, including Sketchbook Brewing Company, Ovo Frito Cafe and 5411 Empanadas. Once residents filled a punch card after visiting three of the listed businesses, they were able to exchange the card for a raffle ticket to potentially win a $25 gift card to one of the businesses.

Latino Engagement Librarian Mariana Bojorquez said her aim was to help small Latine businesses thrive in the light of high inflation rates.

“We really wanted to bring more business to Latino-owned businesses in the hopes that maybe other business owners or entrepreneurs would be interested in opening up their Latino business (in Evanston),” Bojorquez said.

Make Your Own Worry Doll “Crea tu Muñeca Quitapenas”

Through Main Library or the Robert Crown Branch, community members can also pick up a kit to make their own worry doll, a Guatemalan tradition with roots in Mayan culture. The program will run through October while supplies last. 

The muñecas quitapenas, or “worry dolls,” are often used to calm children who are unable to sleep. The child can tell the doll their worries, and then place the doll under their pillow to help them fall asleep. 

Bojorquez said the Robert Crown Branch also offered bookmarks with biographies of historical Latine figures and hopes to continue that initiative next year. All the library events were free, which she said was an important factor in making identity-based events more accessible.

“Our initiatives were something to really highlight (the community and) actually celebrate it throughout the month instead of just doing one event,” Bojorquez said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov 

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