Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in York with festival; Rabbit Transit adds services in Spanish


This Saturday the Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez (Spanish American Center of York) will host the sixth annual National Hispanic Heritage Month Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Renaissance Park, across from the Hispanic Center, 225 E. Princess St., York City.

The event will include food from several different South and Central American traditions, the dance group C.A.F.E. and musical performances from DJ Kid, Sabor Latino, J-Rengue and Folkloric. All of the musical acts also performed last year except J-Rengue, a Caribbean group.

Free raffle tickets will give participants the chance to win various prizes, and sponsors will set up tables at the event. Proceeds from the festival will go to the all-volunteer Centro Hispano, which provides information referrals, free legal consultations from a Hispanic lawyer and job placement services.

Jose Colon-Bones, president of the Centro Hispano's board of directors, is hoping for good weather.

"Last year was colder than expected," he said. The center tries to avoid overlap with the York Fair, and last year the festival was pushed to Oct. 3.

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs between months, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, because there are about eight South and Central American countries that celebrate their independence during that period, Colon-Bones said.

Colon-Bones was happy to say that this year, for the first time, the festival will be dedicated to someone. Delma Rivera, one of the three founders of the center, will be honored with a moment of silence, and a special certificate will be presented to her family, he said.

Rivera, who died last September, was married to Edwin Rivera, who was, according to Colon-Bones, the first Latino doctor in York.

The purpose of the festival is to celebrate Hispanic culture, but everyone from the community, Latino or not, is invited to attend.

"A nice group of African-American families comes every year," Colon-Bones said.

Changes: Rabbit Transit, York County's public transportation agency, has recently made some changes to better accommodate its Hispanic riders.

The changes include a translation tool on its website to convert English to Spanish using Google Translate; a larger number of Spanish-speaking staff at the call center; free travel training from Spanish-speaking staff; the availability of Spanish-speaking staff to give presentations to local organizations; and translations of the paratransit/shared ride applications and guide to Spanish, according to a news release.

"It's exciting news," Colon-Bones said of Rabbit Transit's enhanced services.

According to the Rabbit Transit 2014 Fixed Route Survey, 11 percent of Rabbit Transit riders are Hispanic. A rising proportion of Hispanic riders represents changes in the general population, Richard Farr, the agency's executive director, said Monday.

"If you look at the census data, in 2000, 3 percent of York's population was Hispanic, and in 2010, it was 5.6 percent. That's a significant increase," he said.

"We know that's a market that's going to continue to grow, and we want to provide them with services they can access."

The agency has been making a concentrated effort to accommodate the needs of people with limited English proficiency for three months, but it has been working on some of the changes to help Spanish-speakers for over a year, Farr said.

"We've been asking ourselves, what do we need to do here to remove barriers?" he said.

This past spring, Rabbit Transit became a member of the York County Hispanic Coalition in an effort to reach out to the Hispanic community: "to help us get ideas, and to help get our ideas out there," Farr said.

—Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.