“Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to highlight and to provide a platform for all of the great thing Latinos are doing in our community. It’s a great time for the Latino Chamber of Commerce to highlight some local businesses that have been successful and, in fact, many of them have opened second locations in this area,” says Mayra Medrano, chair of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. “Many of our Latino businesses have been here for several years and we don’t always give them the props that they deserve. During Hispanic Heritage Month it is really about being intentional with that and really showcasing to the Madison community that Latinos represent so much in this community.”

Latino Chamber of Commerce Chair Mayra Medrano

During Hispanic Heritage Month, which starts today and runs through Oct. 15, the Latino Chamber of Commerce will celebrate the outstanding contributions that Latino entrepreneurs make to the local economy and have announced several events that will celebrate the achievements of Latino Americans in Dane County. Hispanic Heritage Month was first observed as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, the celebration was extended to a month under President Ronald Reagan on Aug. 17, 1988.

“We were having the discussion recently about Hispanic Heritage Month with people at the Latino Chamber and many didn’t know how it started and I told them how it came about because of Lyndon B. Johnson,” Latino Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessica Cavazos tells Madison365. “Our discussion shifted to why it was so important for the Latino Chamber to be active during Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Today – September 15th – is significant as a start date to Hispanic Heritage Month as it marks the day that independence was granted to the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge the contributions and the gifts of Latinos to our larger society,” Cavazos says. “How are we celebrating this group of people that originate in 32 different countries? What have they brought to us? How can we honor that?

“We do come from so many different countries and have so many different traditions, religions, and dialects,” she continues. “I think that’s something that’s part of our self-discovery as Latinos during Hispanic Heritage Month … is the discovering of the diversity among us.”

Latino Chamber Executive Director Jessica Cavazos

The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County represents the Latino and non-Latino business community in the greater Madison and surrounding cities and assists and promotes the interests of its members and community through advocacy and programs that make an overall impact on Dane County’s economic growth. The Latino Chamber was founded in 2003. As a way of giving back during Hispanic Heritage Month, the Latino Chamber will offer a 25 percent discount to new members who join the Chamber during that time.

“The Chamber is going through an evolution right now because we are really growing right now inside and outside of Dane County,” Cavazos says. “I think more and more people are understanding more about what the contributions are of Latino business owners to our region, what Latino laborers mean for our region, and how do we keep that conversation alive despite all of the obstacles we face including the DACA issue that is happening right now.

“More and more people are understanding that we have a population that has a hard-working culture that loves to be productive,” she adds. “It’s a population that is working to make our community better. It’s a very family driven, traditionally based culture. I feel like part of my mission is to bring to light all of these great things we have going on in our community and to help our overall economic infrastructure regionally.

The Latino Chamber has many Hispanic Heritage Month events lined up including the networking event “Enlace” on Thursday, Sept. 21, 6-8 p.m., at Synergy Co-working space, 5201 Old Middleton Rd, on Madison’s west side. Professionals will have a chance to make business connections, try Peruvian appetizers, and learn more about the Latino Chamber of Commerce at this event. Members and non-members are welcome to attend. Admission is free.

“Eugenia Podesta is a co-owner of Synergy and she is very much a powerhouse in Madison. In fact, I want to be her when I grow up,” Medrano laughs. “But it’s just an opportunity to learn about her journey and a chance to try some great Peruvian foods.”

La Santa Cecilia

Additionally, Grammy award-winning La Santa Cecilia will play at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater on Friday, October 6, 7:30 p.m. The group exemplifies the hybrid of Latin culture, rock and world music and draws inspiration from their Latin American influences and Mexican heritage.

“La Santa Cecilia is actually from my hometown in L.A. so I’m really looking forward to their performance,” Medrano says. “It’s really a great way to showcase from a national perspective the talent in the music industry that perhaps a lot of people might not know of.”

2014 Latino Art Fair winner Rolando Cruz

Medrano and the Latino Chamber of Commerce are also excited about the Latino Art Fair that will take place on Friday, Oct. 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Overture Center, where 27 Latin@ artists will show and sell their art. The Latino Art Fair celebrates the rich heritage of Latino people and their art inspired by many different countries. Attendees will be able to view unique pottery, paintings, jewelry, prints, photographs, blown glass, textiles and even carved fruit, and purchase art directly from the artists. Admission is free.

“The Latino Art Fair is an amazing platform to highlight and showcase all of our wonderful Latino artists in the area,” Medrano says.

J. Leigh Garcia and Evelyn Galindo will have an exhibit of their own in the Overture Center’s Rotunda Lobby from September 15th to October 15th titled “¿Quienes somos? (Who Are We?)” A gallery reception of this exhibit coincides with the Latino Art Fair on October 7th.

“We are doing these events to provide a platform for our businesses. The Latino Art Fair will be a great event for the art community who are also business owners and it is a great chance to promote and showcase their arts and gain some revenue from that,” Cavazos says. “We have so many artists who are business owners and this is a form of sustaining themselves. Why not give them a mainstream platform and a beautiful location to showcase their great artistic talents? I encourage the whole community to come on out to the Latino Art Fair.”

For more information about Latino Chamber of Commerce Hispani History Month events, click here.