First Friday York debuts first-ever monthly Latino celebration

Members of York's Latino community dress in traditional costume for "Dia De Los Muertos," the Day of the Dead, during the York Halloween Parade, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

York City's March First Friday will add a bit more culture to its mix with the first-ever First Friday Latino.

After city-goers stop by the traditional First Friday celebration from 5 to 9 p.m, they can stick around to see the downtown area transform, embracing the culture of the city's Latino population.

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“York has a growing Latino community," said Lou Rivera, founder and organizer of First Friday Latino, "and it’s time for us to engage in downtown York and vice versa."

According to 2010 U.S. Census information, York City has more than 12,000 Latino residents, which equates to about 28 percent — close to a third of the city's population.

Friday, March 2, will be the kickoff event, with salsa lessons from 7 to 8 p.m. followed by a DJ and band from 8 to 10 p.m.

First Friday festivities in York City, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"I think the great thing about this event is it's going to connect downtown York to a really key community in the city, and that's the Latino community," said Downtown Inc communications director Andrew Staub.

Rivera — who has been active in the York County Latino community with events such as the Feb. 12 Traveling Resource and Information Fair for refugees of Puerto Rico  — was inspired to bring a Latino night to the York area after seeing a similar event in Lancaster.

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For Lancaster, it was First Thursday Latino, a networking event in its 10th year allowing Latinos to mix in professional and business communities.

But Rivera said of York's event, "ours is more of a celebration."

"I wanted this to be inclusive and engaging to the entire community," he said. "I didn't want to leave anyone out, especially in the Latino community."

He said it will provide a better chance for voices to be heard in the downtown area — not just for Latinos, but for everyone. 

Rivera said the businesses downtown wanted Latino engagement as well. It's an opportunity for Latinos and non-Latinos to ask questions, meet Latino leaders in the community and become more involved, he said.

“First Friday brings out passionate Yorkers, and our Latino community is full of passionate people who care about our city and culture," Rivera said. "It was only natural that we tie the two together."

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First Friday Latino also serves as a forum to showcase achievements and work in the county's Latino community, according to a news release.

For the inaugural event, Angie Garrison, Linda Diaz and Delma Rivera will be honored for Women's History Month in support of their relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Latino artist Rosa Luz Catterall talks about her work displayed at Creative York during the Spolight on the Arts Bus Tour, Thursday November 17, 2016. The Spotlight on the Arts Bus Tour started at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center and moved to partnering sites in a Bailey luxury coach. John A. Pavoncello photo

Each of the women traveled to the island as a part of the Puerto Rico Se Levanta group that collected items including food and clothes, as well as funds — Delma Rivera delivered more than $10,000 during her journey last month.

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The inaugural event will feature an announcement at 7 p.m. that will benefit the entire York community, Rivera said — "a wondrous endeavor that involves the immigrant community."

Friday's event will take place at the York College Center for Community Engagement, 59 E. Market St., and the monthly celebration will take place at a different location every First Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. 

Latinos Unidos of York is collaborating with Downtown Inc, along with many community sponsors, to organize the events.