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Clearwater offers look at Latin culture

The city's two-day Uno Festival, scheduled for Sept. 17-18 at Coachman Park, celebrates the city's diversity.

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 31, 1999


CLEARWATER -- To reach out to its increasingly diverse population, the city is co-sponsoring a two-day festival in September celebrating the Latin American culture.

The first-ever Uno Festival on Sept. 17-18 at Coachman Park will feature Latin music, dances and food.

Scheduled entertainers include a Peruvian instrumental group, a Latin rock band, Puerto Rican folk singers and tango dancers.

"We're excited about the opportunity to express the diversity of our community and to celebrate the Latin population," said Arlita Hallam, the city's quality of life administrator. "I think it's going to be a wonderful event."

The event is co-sponsored by the Uno Federation Community Services, a non-profit organization founded in 1997 that supports the local Hispanic population. Ralph Emmanuelli serves as the group's chairman.

Earlier this year, he asked city officials if they would consider organizing a festival that would highlight the Hispanic culture.

"I approached the city and said, let's unite our resources and do it," Emmanuelli said.

The timing was right, said Sara Agrait, a supervisor in the city's Cultural Arts division. Responding to a request by the Parks and Recreation Department, city officials were considering sponsoring a Latin-themed event.

"It was a logical match to help coordinate the event" with the Uno Federation, said Agrait, a native of Puerto Rico.

The city will pay for the event with $10,000 from its Event Development Fund, said Steve Miller, superintendent of recreation programming for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Though the Uno group is not contributing financially to the event, it is recruiting volunteers and sponsors for the event.

"The idea is to showcase the diversity of Latin America," said Emmanuelli, who moved here from Puerto Rico. "It's a chance for Hispanics to say, "Hey, we're right here.' We're part of the community."

"In a sense, we wanted to make it an opportunity to bring together all the segments in the Tampa Bay area, and the Latin community is one of those segments," Agrait said.

The Hispanic population in Pinellas County has nearly tripled, from 10,500 in 1980 to more than 28,000 in 1995, according to the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Since 1990, almost a third of the 1.4-million people who moved to the state were Hispanic. Some of them settled in Clearwater. Fourteen percent of Clearwater's population, which is 104,000, is Hispanic, Miller said.

"Part of (the reason for the event) is to build bridges between the city of Clearwater and the Latin community," Miller said. "But we certainly invite everyone to come."


-- Times files were used in this report.

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