By Michael Solender
Charlotte is a city of newcomers.
Most quickly discover they’re not alone in this regard, as the QC holds the distinction of a rapidly growing New South city where, according to the latest U.S. Census figures, only 41 percent of Charlotte residents are native to North Carolina.
Rather than constrain Charlotte’s personality, character and sense of belonging, however, this robust diversity and influx of traditions, cuisine, arts, music, work ethic, faith and heritage from cultures both near and far contribute greatly to the rich quality and fabric of life here.
Charlotte’s welcoming nature and the opportunity to shape and contribute to the community landscape is precisely what inspired graphic artist, designer and journalist Jacobo Strimling to create “Los Charloteanos,” an ASC Cultural Vision Grant-supported project celebrating positive community impact from Charlotte’s Latino residents. Strimling and former Spanish-language Hola News editor-in-chief Mayra Arteaga imagined the project combining illustrated portraits and compelling biographical narratives featuring nearly two-dozen Latin-a/o/x/e community members who have made strong and lasting contributions to Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
“Our goal,” said Strimling, a native of Mexico City who came to the U.S. in 2001 and Charlotte in 2003, “is to highlight the incredible contributions of Latinos to Charlotte while underscoring the sense of belonging and pride that come with being part of our new home in Charlotte. We want Latinos to feel ‘Orgullosamente Charloteans’ (proud to be Charlotteans).”
A special website is set to launch later this fall (http://www.charloteanos.com/) where installments highlighting community contributors will run every other week. Next spring, a celebratory event is planned to honor featured community contributors, “Best of” business, artists, professionals and activists.
Tragically, Arteaga passed away in July after a two-year battle with cancer. Strimling will carry on with the project and plans to honor Arteaga with her own feature and portrait. Charlotte musician, teacher and journalist Dalia Razo has been recruited by Strimling to help with the project in developing profiles to highlight featured community members.
ASC Cultural Vision Grants support projects that build community by connecting individuals across points of difference and nurture, celebrate and support authentic cultures and creative expression. “Los Charloteanos” taps into the essence of this spirit.
“So much of belonging and sense of place focuses on assimilating into a community,” said Strimling, “We want to focus on contributions and how the additive nature of immigrants and those not from here help define the community as well.”
Strimling and Razo are enlisting support of Latin-a/o/x/e community members to identify and select those in their community worthy of special recognition. Business leaders, artists, activist, restaurateurs and community leaders are slated for inclusion.
“We want to feature a broad mix of Latino community leaders and highlight the various impact made across Charlotte,” Strimling said. “There is much to celebrate.”
Celebrate National Hispanic American Month
September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, which recognizes the cultures, contributions and histories of Latin-a/o/x/e and Hispanic communities in the U.S.
Here are some activities happening in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to help you celebrate:
The Melody of Latin American Stories
Wednesday, Sept. 15, virtual event
Presented by Criss Cross Mangosauce and sponsored by ASC’s Culture Blocks, the virtual bilingual story-time and music series will offer a glimpse of Latin American childhood by connecting songs and forgotten melodies with illustrations.
Latin American Festival
Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18-19, Symphony Park (4400 Sharon Rd., Charlotte)
The annual festival, presented by the Latin American Coalition, will feature musical artists and dance performances, a diverse and authentic selection of Latin American food, handmade crafts, visual artists and activities for the whole family.
Puerto Rican Festival
Saturday, Oct. 2, The Park Expo & Conference Center (800 Briar Creek Rd., Charlotte)
The largest Puerto Rican Festival of the Carolinas, presented by E&A Productions.
Bilingual Stories & Music
Saturday, Oct. 9, Mint Museum Randolph (2730 Randolph Rd., Charlotte)
Mint Museum guests Criss Cross Mangosauce will use a combination of bilingual stories (Spanish/English), music, musical instruments, toys, puppets and games to interact with the audience.
Hola Charlotte Festival
Saturday, Oct. 9, Tryon Street (from Stonewall to 4th streets) in uptown Charlotte.
The largest Hispanic heritage celebration in Charlotte highlights Latin American culture and all its richness through authentic foods, nationally acclaimed Latin American bands and artists, cultural dance performances and more.