Nationwide, America’s Latino population is projected to soar in the coming two decades to 85,543,000, faster than some have expected, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. That means Latinos will make up 23 percent of the U.S. population by 2035. The Latino population in Dane County is also growing fast. That will be evident to Madisonians this weekend at the annual El Día de los Niños celebration.

“I think at this time with all of the controversies and bad news that we see in our country that we need happy events like El Día de los Niños,” says Fabiola Hamdan, chair of Latino Children and Families Council and organizer of the annual El Día de los Niños event. “Our hope with the event is that the Latino kids can share their culture with the community at large. We have to take advantage of these opportunities to come together and I think that this is one small way that we can build community.”

This year marks the 13th year for El Día de los Niños event which will be held Saturday, May 7, at the Goodman Community Center. The event is a day of fun and culture and is designed for Latino children and their families. All activities will take place in Spanish.
It’s a fun event for kids, Hamdan says, but it’s also very informational for parents and adults.

“There will be numerous people and groups involved in education and in colleges. We will be providing information about DAPA and DACA and we will have immigration attorneys coming to the event,” Hamdan says. “That’s really important because sometimes you get the wrong information out there.”

Deferred Action for Parents and Americans (DAPA) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+) seek to improve the situation for unauthorized immigrants in the absence of congressional action on the issue. DAPA and DACA+ would give immigrants with deep ties to the country more options to stay and work in the United States.
El Día de los Niños will also feature information tables and representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters, Centro Hispano, Center for Families, Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, Kinder Ready, Community Coordinated Child care (4-C), Dane County Parent Council Head Start, Early and Extended Learning MMSD, Journey Mental Health, Madison Public Library, OSHA US Department of Labor, Planned Parenthood, UNIDOS, YWCA, Rape Crisis Center and much more.

But when people think of El Día de los Niños, they think of fun for kids of all ages. There will be plenty of activities, fun, music, games, and a variety of Latin American folk dance groups. Centro Hispano of Dane County will have activities geared towards older kids.

El Día de los Niños (The Day of the Children) has its roots in Latin America, although it is also celebrated in Asian and European countries. It is a worldwide celebration of the child and family. This day recognizes children, pays homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well-being.

“In my home country of Bolivia, I always remembered waiting for the big events like Christmas and Easter, and The Day of The Children was one of those events,” Hamdan says. “In our schools, the teacher would have a special program on that day. Everybody was celebrating and it was really a special time.

“Moving here to Madison, we have all kinds of celebrations in this town, but we didn’t have a Day of the Children,” she adds. “It was something that everybody was celebrating back home and that’s why we brought it here about 13 years ago.”
The first El Día de los Niños was held at the Salvation Army on Darbo Drive in 2004. The organizers planned for 200 people only to see more than 800 people show up at the event. Since then, the event has been held at the Sports Club in Oregon, the Boys and Girls Club, and now, since 2011, at Goodman Community Center on Madison’s near east side.

“We love the Goodman Community Center. It’s very accommodating and it’s a very welcoming place,” Hamdan says. “If we wanted to expand this event, we could do it at the Alliant Energy Center or the Coliseum and we’d have tons of people, but I think the essential thing about El Día de los Niños is to make it very welcoming and family-friendly.”

Big sponsors of El Día de los Niños include Madison Gas and Electric, UW Health, CUNA Mutual, UnityPoint/Meriter, and Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin. In-kind sponsors include the United Way, La Movida, La Comunidad News, the Latino Chamber of Commerce, and more.

“El Día de los Niños has certainly grown over the years … it’s gotten bigger and better,” Hamdan says. “Even with the organizations that we have traditionally partnered with, they are at the point now where they expect and look forward to this celebration every year and they all have expectations that they will be part of the event.”

El Día de los Niños will also feature, as it does every year, the Parade of Latin American Nations — children display their cultural heritage by hoisting various flags from Spanish-speaking countries around the world and parading their way around the Goodman Community Center.
“The goal of the event is to make sure the kids have a great day with their parents and their families and have fun and have great memories,” Hamdan says. “Another goal is to provide parents with the key resources that they need around immigration, foodshare, employment, housing and more.

“Ultimately, our goal for the larger community is to be able to see how vibrant and how positive the Latino community is here in Madison and to share the great food, culture and traditions that we have with everybody in Madison,” she adds.

The annual El Día de los Niños event will be held Saturday, May 7, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St. In you have any questions about the event, please contact Fabiola Hamdan (608)246-2967 or [email protected]