New Funding Will Help ¡Fiesta Latina! Thrive and Grow

Western New Mexico University has received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to help fund ¡Fiesta Latina!, the university’s signature cultural event. This year, ¡Fiesta Latina! will be held June 6-9.

© Western New Mexico University

Western New Mexico University has recently been awarded a grant of $20,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support ¡Fiesta Latina!, the university’s signature cultural event. This highly competitive grant is one of only twenty given to New Mexico art organizations during this most recent round of funding.

Director of Cultural Affairs Alexandra Tager said that while ¡Fiesta Latina! has received NEA funding before, this is the largest grant received from the organization.

¡Fiesta Latina!, which this year is scheduled for June 6-9, is a celebration of New Mexico’s ties to Mexico. “The purpose of it is essentially to promote cross-cultural exchange,” said Tager. Each year, she and her team host dozens of folk artisans from Mexico who share their techniques and showcase their works. Some of the artisans will give demonstrations or lectures, and others will lead workshops in which they guide children and adults in their craft. The festival also includes Mexican films and musical performances, making it a broadly based educational and cultural celebration.

While the main beneficiaries of ¡Fiesta Latina! are the people of southwest New Mexico, Tager noted that the festival helps to “preserve traditional Mexican folk art.” “We only bring in handcraft artisans—people who have their own collectives or are working on their own and are continuing folk traditions,” she said, “They are passing them on.”

Tager said her favorite aspect of ¡Fiesta Latina! is the opportunity to interact with these artisans.  They “are so dedicated to what they do,” she emphasized, “Many of them are passing down traditions they learned from their parents, who in turn learned from their parents. It is so rare [in the United States] to see that kind of generational legacy.”

According to Tager, the NEA specifically targets some of its “Grants for Arts Projects” funding toward projects that focus on folk and traditional arts. “I think ¡Fiesta Latina! fits right into their programming, in that they are looking to fund folk and traditional art projects, and as we are a borderlands institution, this is a perfect fit for them,” she said, “Plus, I think they look for rural, out-of-the-way places that do not always have a lot of exposure to the arts.”

“The other thing that makes our grant application strong,” said Tager, “is that we have a lot of support from the community.” In general, having additional sources of support indicates to the NEA that the project is legitimate and has community “buy-in.” ¡Fiesta Latina! receives funding from the Town of Silver City and from a number of corporate sponsors. This year it also received a $5000 grant from the New Mexico Tourism Department, which will help to promote the festival on social media.

Tager attributes this strong support to the quality of the festival program. “I thought last year we had a really robust festival,” she said, “I felt we had a really good mix of fun and educational programs … This year we have more applications than ever, so hopefully we will be able to up the number of artisans.”

Tager expects that the additional funding this year will help to subsidize the many free events the festival offers. She also hopes it will help to get the word out about the festival and to increase attendance and expand the educational opportunities of ¡Fiesta Latina!

“This money helps us to ensure that ¡Fiesta Latina! remains an educational and culturally enriching event,” she said.

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