The Miami Herald
Friday, September 5, 2008

Miami Dade College honors Mexican contributions with festival


South Florida's Mexican community has grown in size and influence in recent years, as a new wave of immigrants from both the agricultural and business fields have chosen to make their home here.

Now local cultural and business leaders say it's time to celebrate that evolution. A diverse group of organizations, led by the Mexican consulate, kick off the two-week Mexico Miami Festival on Sept. 14 with events ranging from a piñata-making class to a food festival.

It is the first, and largest, Mexican cultural event of its kind in South Florida.

''The Mexican community brings a lot to the Florida economy, but its presence isn't widely felt,'' Consul General Juan Miguel Gutiérrez Tinoco.

''This event will highlight that presence, and help bring the community together,'' Gutiérrez Tinoco said.

According to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau figures, there are 69,000 Mexicans in Broward and Miami Dade-Counties, though community leaders estimate that number is much higher.

The Mexico Miami Festival, which celebrates Mexico's 198 years of independence, includes a Sept. 15 dance and musical performance against the backdrop of a recreated Mexican town square at the Kendall campus of Miami Dade College.

It will close with a reception and fashion show on Sept. 26 at Miami Art Central, 5960 SW 57th Ave.

In between, events taking place in various locations across Miami-Dade will touch on commerce, culture and on the Florida-Mexico relationship.

There will be a tourism trade fair and forums on doing business in Mexico, as well as a film festival, art shows and presentations including a demonstration of pre-Hispanic rituals.

''We have had many Mexicans here for a while, but in the last four years the interest in Mexico and its relationship with Florida has grown impressively,'' said Elba Hentschel, executive director of the Inter-American chapter of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is one of the organizations behind the event.

"This is a moment that we need to take advantage of.''

The festival is one of several new initiatives launched by Gutiérrez Tinoco aimed at uniting the community.

Among them: monthly networking breakfasts for business leaders and an educational program at the consulate that includes weekly lectures on finance and health issues.

''We are working on all fronts to better handle their needs,'' said Gutiérrez Tinoco, 59, who began his tenure at the Miami consulate late last year. "The Mexican community wants to be involved.''

For more informationon the festival, visit