Fiesta celebrates 60 years with expanded festival

For 60 years Latin Americans United for Progress has been celebrating the contributions of the Latino community with its annual Fiesta. This year, the celebration has expanded in both size and scope. 

Now a week-long festival, Fiesta (July 15-21) will encompass more in-depth and more meaningful events focused on bridging the gaps between communities and advancing Latinos in Holland.

“They add deeper discussion and action plans going forward. Of course, the celebration is still right there,” LAUP President and CEO Johnny Rodriguez says. “(Fiesta) needs to be more than just the celebration. It needs to be continued advocacy, continued discussion.”

The week will kick off with screenings of “First Voice Generation.”

CourtesyCrew members pose during the filming of "First Voice Generation."

The documentary, directed and produced by Cynthia Martinez, follows the stories of three Latino high school students in Holland during the COVID-19 pandemic. It follows the students as they struggle with their identities, growing up as the children of Mexican immigrants in a historically Dutch community, and grapple with virtual learning while dreaming of being the first in their families to go to college.

There will be three showings — 2, 4, and 6 p.m. Monday, July 15 — at Hope College’s Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, 257 Columbia Ave. A panel discussion with the director, the student subjects of the film, and LAUP Director of Youth Programs and Advancement Julian Lugo will be included in the final showing.
CourtesyLatin Americans United for Progress is celebrating 60 years.
Tickets are $10 and available at All proceeds will go to the Mas Adelante Scholarship Fund. Since its inception in 2023, the fund has granted $30,000 in scholarships.

The first ever LatinXperience Symposium will be “designed to unite our community in meaningful discussions and ignite positive change in the areas where Latinos live, learn, and earn,” Rodriguez says.

For the free event, Rodriguez and LAUP founder Lupita Reyes will engage in a fireside chat before Delia Fernandez-Jones presents the keynote address. Fernandez-Jones is the author of Making the MexiRican City: Mexican and Puerto Rican Migration, Activism, and Placemaking in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which details how disparate Latino communities came together to respond to social, racial, and economic challenges and simultaneously transformed Grand Rapids and the Midwest from the 1920s to the 1970s.
A special youth student panel featuring local high school and college students, and an adult panel featuring local representatives from the education and business industries will round out the evening.

There will be light hors d'oeuvres. A cash bar will feature Fiesta 60th Anniversary Beer by City Built Brewery and Reyna's Michelada Mix. Following the event, downtown restaurant Mezkla is partnering with LAUP to offer $2 tacos.

One of the longest-running events in West Michigan, the Latin American United for Progress Fiesta now draws over 20,000 attendees each year. 

For many years, Fiesta was a one-day event in early May. Often, it coincided with the opening weekend of Holland’s Tulip Time Festival. Although LAUP still partners with Tulip Time for fireworks during the spring festival, it was important to Fiesta organizers that the festival have its own, separate identity and time slot, away from Tulip Time and away from Cinco de Mayo, a holiday celebrated only in America and Pueblo, Mexico.

“We’re Latin Americans United for Progress, and we represent and support as much of the Latin American community as we can,” Rodriguez says.

This year Fiesta has expanded to an entire week, and Rodriguez says, that is the blueprint he is hoping to use for the future of the festival as well.

LAUP will also have a booth at the Wednesday, July 17, Holland Farmers Market with food, celebrations of LatinX culture, and kids’ activities.

CourtesyLatin Americans United for Progress's annual Fiesta celebrates Latino culture.

The next day, the nonprofit is partnering with downtown Holland to host an array of Latin dance and singing troupes for the Street Performers Series 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18.

A concert in Kollen Park 7 p.m. Friday, July 19, will feature live entertainment — including salsa, merengue, and cumbia music — as well as food trucks.

“Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Cubans, Mexicans — we all dance cumbia,” says Rodriguez.

At its core, Fiesta is, after all, a celebration, and Saturday, July 20, will be one big party. LAUP will celebrate Latino culture with a talent show, entertainment, a mercado with more than 60 booths, kids activities, and local food trucks 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Holland Civic Center, 150 E. Eighth St.

That night, LAUP will put on a Fiesta Baile (dance) with two-time Grammy Award winning band Los Palominos at the Civic Center. Limited tickets are still available.
CourtesyMore than 60 vendors will participate in this year's Fiesta mercado.
The festivities will wrap up Sunday with a car show at the Civic Center. From noon to 4 p.m., the Civic Center parking lot will be filled with more than 200 classic cars, outdoor entertainment, and food trucks.

Grand Valley State University is the Fiesta title sponsor. Grand Rapids Community College is the event’s community engagement sponsor. 

“This truly takes a whole community,” Rodriguez says. “It’s not just one person. It’s not just LAUP. “
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Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.