GASTONIA, N.C. — Several Gaston County agencies celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month Saturday with the 'Caminemos y Roll Juntos Gaston / Gaston Walk and Roll Together' event.
The free event celebrated different cultures of the Latino community and offered useful information to the Spanish-speaking community.
It was sponsored by the Latinx Health Outreach Advisory Council, in collaboration with Disability Rights of North Carolina (DRNC), Gaston County's Department of Health and Human Services, the Gastonia Police Department, Healthy Blue NC, Telemundo Charlotte, and Latinos Aventureros en las Carolinas and several local businesses. The Gaston Literary Council was also there, which offers free English classes for citizenship.
There was also food, music, and children's activities available for those who attended.
One of the event's organizers, Vivianette Ortiz Caraballo with DRNC, said there are plenty of services that people don't know are available to them, perhaps due to a lack of internet or television access.
"People go through hard times. People have problems and encounter problems where they need advocacy," she said. "If you're having issues with landlords, if you're having issues at your job, and you have a disability and you feel like they're not accommodating you or your rights are being violated, give us a call and we're either able to advocate for you or teach you how to self-advocate."
Other groups focused on covering people's basic needs.
"There are food pantries, they give out free food," Ortiz Caraballo said. "There are health agencies that give out low-cost healthcare, even free."
She said all of the vendors for the event were bilingual, and that the turnout was better than expected. This unique event is now being planned on an annual basis.
Ortiz Caraballo said beyond connecting the community to services and other resources, one of the best parts was seeing the Hispanic community come together.
"With the flags and shouting out all these different Latin American countries and just seeing people who don't even speak Spanish join us, which is what we wanted," Ortiz Caraballo said. "Seeing people come together and seeing them happy, and then seeing these organizations join us and all the prizes we have it's been great."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2021, an estimated 8.3 percent of Gaston County's population - about 19,161 - are Hispanic.