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Sleepy Hollow, according to recent census data, has a nearly 23% Ecuadorian population. Its neighboring towns of Mount Kisco, Ossining and Croton are also home to large Ecuadorean communities. Now ArtsWestchester and the Village of Sleepy Hollow are teaming up to present Dia De La Cultura Ecuatoriana (Day of Ecuadorian Culture) on August 14 at 3-8pm. The multidisciplinary festival at Sleepy Hollow’s Barnhart Park will showcase the heritage and culture of Westchester’s Ecuadorian community.
“This is something that I don’t think has been done anywhere in Westchester yet,” said Diana Loja, community liaison for the Village of Sleepy Hollow. “For a lot of immigrants, all you do is work. For some of them, this is a thing that makes them feel valuable and supports their culture outside of that.”
Aaron Paige, ArtsWestchester’s Director of Folk & Traditional Arts adds: “We’re working collaboratively with the community to create more opportunities for sharing Ecuadorian arts, tradition and culture.”
Renowned Ecuadorean artist Cristobal Ortega, known as the “world’s fastest painter,” will lead a demonstration of his speed- painting technique and then answer questions. A lineup of other workshops look at Ecuadorian culture. Dance group Inti Raymi will demonstrate traditional Ecuadorean dances. Artist Dra. Pacha Muenala will discuss the history and significance of Ecuadorean clothing and costuming. Local professor Atik Paguay will lead an interactive Kichwa language lesson. Accompanying a full music and dance performance lineup of and educational workshops will be local Ecuadorean vendors selling handmade traditional jewelry, crafts and food.
Loja explains that many performers in the local Ecuadorian community do not work as full-time professional artists: “They do this because they love the culture and they want to pass on a positive tradition to their kids and family.”
Unlike similar past events that have featured Ecuadorian dancing and music, Loja characterized Dia De La Cultura Ecuatoriana as educational. “At the same time as you’re having fun, you’re getting to know more about the history, getting a little mix of everything. Unless you were already familiar with the culture, you [otherwise] wouldn’t understand the culture, customs, clothes and other details.”
Says Paige: “Through this and future programs, our hope is to slowly build cross-cultural understanding, public awareness and unity, thereby helping neighbors to break down barriers and learn to appreciate the knowledge, history, experience and diverse cultural heritage of Westchester’s Ecuadorian community.”
A version of this article first appeared in the July-August issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.