Saturday, May 5, 2007

All Celebrate a Blossoming Hispanic Culture in Sioux Falls

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Father Justin Wachs became vicar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic parish two years ago, armed with a remembered phrase from a high school Spanish class in Aberdeen 17 years before: "I have a date with Anita at 8:30."

It was meager preparation, both for him and for the estimated 500 or so families who make up the parish, most of whom originally came from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Colombia.

"They were very patient and kind to me with my Spanish," he says.

A week ago, Wachs celebrated first communion Masses, alternating easily between Spanish and English with the readings and delivering his sermon twice, once in each language. Afterward, he posed for photos with the communicants: girls in dazzling white dresses and boys in suits.

The occasion offered a glimpse of the way the growing Hispanic community and a dominant South Dakota culture have worked through pronounced differences and blended.

Estimates by the Sioux Falls Race Relations Task Force peg the Sioux Falls Hispanic population at 5,500....Sioux Falls Public Schools enroll 1,079 Hispanic students. They are in every school in the district, make up 8 percent to 10 percent of the elementary school student body, 6 percent of the middle school population and 4 percent to 5 percent of the high school enrollment.

Today, that community will be featured in a Cinco de Mayo parade and festival in Sioux Falls.

Emily South, who owns Sign-A-Rama on East 10th Street, was at the 2006 St. Patrick's Day parade where she ran into Lorenzo Reta-Castillo, who first slipped into this country illegally at age 14, moved to Sioux Falls in 1996, became a citizen in 2001 and with his wife, Michelle, owns Nikki's La Mexicana, next door to Sign-A-Rama.

"We can do a parade," South told him.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday. But in the Sioux Falls celebrations, South and Reta-Castillo got the equivalent of St. Patrick's Day, where everybody is Irish. Identification with their country of origin predominates among Sioux Falls' Spanish-speaking residents, say many involved with them. But in their enthusiasm for the Cinco de Mayo events, "The people I talk to are just happy to have a celebration with some kind of Latino food and music," says Sister Janet Horstman, a Presentation Sister who works with immigrants in Sioux Falls. [...snip] Argus Leader
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