CASA GRANDE — Hispanic Heritage Month wrapped up in Casa Grande with un gran exito.

CG Main Street, in partnership with the city’s Arts and Humanities Commission and the Latino Family Initiative, hosted a special themed night of festivities on Friday as part of their “Downtown After Dark” concert series at the Neon Sign Park.

The event included music and dancing, vendors serving tacos, loteria, flower-making, and at least half a dozen smashed piñatas. With both temperature and COVID numbers dropping to more comfortable levels, the evening drew a large crowd to Casa Grande’s downtown region.

“I’m always happy when people are here,” said Holly Rakoci, CG Main Street’s director. “We were able to use grant money for some really cool prizes from local downtown businesses.”

Ralph Varela, Chairman of the Arts and Humanities Commission and CEO of the Pinal Hispanic Council, said that Casa Grande has a rich local Hispanic heritage, including some of the oldest small businesses still in operation around the city.

“Some of the restaurants here have been with us a long time and are iconic,” Varela said. “Mi Amigo Ricardo’s, Ochoa’s, Little Sombrero. They are a part of everything here.”

According to Varela, the commission gave $4,500 in grant money to various local organizations to contribute to the festival, including cookies, PPE, and at least a half dozen pinatas which were smashed to bits so kids in attendance could collect the candy.

Originally, the plan was to host a salsa or tamale table, but Varela said because of lingering COVID concerns, they switched it to a flower-making table. The most popular event of the evening may have been the “loteria Mexicana,” a traditional card game, on CG Main Street’s patio.

The local ArtMobile also provided paper flowers and papel picados that were hung all along Florence Street.

The musical performers including Mariachi Pasion, an all-female mariachi band, and Ballet Folklorico del Sol.

“We are here to share some of the beauty of our music,” said Mariachi Pasion member Betty Duarte-Matwick, who plays the band’s guitarron. “You don’t have to understand every word we say, but listen with your hearts, and you will get the gist of what we are doing.”

Several attendees at the concert said that it was their first time they were able to come out and be part of the community.

“Downtown is not that big, but I like when people come out,” said resident Robert Inzunza. “Normally on weekends Casa Grande is dead and you have to somewhere like Gilbert, so this is great! Let’s keep it going.”

Another resident, Lindsay Chavez, said she had brought her kids to the concert because she wants them to experience more Hispanic culture.

“My kids don’t speak Spanish,” Chavez said. “I have been telling them for the longest time, you guys have to get involved with your roots. This is where you come from: the cars, the music, the dancing, the food, the beautiful folkorico dancers. It’s exciting to be here.”

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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