Centro Hispano of Dane County will host its annual Tres Reyes Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m.-noon at its headquarters on Madison’s South Side. The Tres Reyes Celebration is a long-standing tradition at Centro, a signature event that brings hundreds and hundreds of children and their families together to celebrate the three kings at a community celebration that includes face painting, traditional snacks and hot chocolate, professional photos with the Tres Reyes and more.
“The Tres Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men) are really the seekers of dreams from my perspective,” Dr. Karen Menéndez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County, tells Madison365. “They represent all of us and they’re really giving a gift to the next generation and the future of hope to those who will make things better for everyone. And that’s what our kids represent at Centro Hispano.”
Saturday’s event will be the last Tres Reyes Magos celebration at the Centro Hispano headquarters on 810 W. Badger Road, the only home Menéndez Coller has known since she was named executive director in 2013. Centro Hispano, a community hub that just turned 40 years old last year and is dedicated to preserving and promoting Latinx culture and traditions, has a brand-new building that will open in the coming months.
“It means a lot that this will be the last one in this building. We have so many wonderful memories here. It’s really special,” she says. “I was talking to my staff recently about how the Tres Reyes Celebration is how we honor kids. That’s how I see it. And they’re really the future of the youth programs which is at the heart of what Centro has been all about for such a long time. It makes me think about all the people that have gone to the event here – some of them are here with us today, some of them aren’t — and the great history of this building. This will be a good send-off as we move to the new building down the street in the future.”
The new, 25,000-square-foot Centro Hispano building that is currently being constructed on the corner of Cypress Way and Hughes Place on Madison’s South Side will make it possible for Centro to expand its reach and keep up with the needs of Dane County’s fast-growing Latinx community.
“The new building will be finished by the end of February and we’ll probably be moving in March or April. And I’m hoping to have a big community opening celebration … a week-long thing at the end of April. We’re looking forward to the new building being a really vibrant place for the rest of the year and inviting a lot of people over to do a lot of tours and get people connected with Centro who may not even be connected to the organization before. It’s going to bring a lot of energy at a time that we really need it … there’s so much going on around the world.”
The Tres Reyes Celebration is a chance for kids to get a “regalo” and a picture with the Tres Reyes. As it does every year, the Tres Reyes Celebration will have plenty of roscas de reyes, a traditional holiday pastry for guests along with chocolate caliente (hot cocoa). “The Three Kings are always fun because everybody has a good time and we have some special guests that are dressing up as kings. We will have music and food and hot chocolate and face painting,” Menéndez Coller says.
The Tres Reyes Celebration is open to all members of the community. The Madison Reading project will be at Tres Reyes giving out books to the kids.
“We will have a lot of toys to give away, too. Last year, we gave away close to 2000,” Menéndez Coller says. “So we’re ready to do it again for all ages and hoping that everybody can take one or two toys with them and just kind of have a sense of community and enjoyment. It’s just a wonderful event to spend time together as we celebrate the new year and our hopes for the coming year.”
El Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day), which is celebrated widely throughout Latin America, is the day that we remember how the wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus. It is an opportunity for families to reconnect with their heritage and traditions, fostering a sense of pride and cultural identity.
Menéndez Coller remembers celebrating Tres Reyes as a kid in El Salvador and in Los Angeles, where her family settled when she was 13 years old.
“Tres Reyes reminds me of family and friends and of just celebrating and being with each other. The meaning of Tres Reyes Celebration has really meant a lot to me since moving to Wisconsin and seeing all that we go through here. I think it’s pretty powerful.”
“As we transition from our old building to our new building, I’ve really thought about how this community means everything to me and I think back when I started at Centro, I didn’t realize how much love I would have for it. I’m thankful for the opportunity to grow here and see the beauty that’s in Dane County and the families that keep arriving. We have a lot of new community members who have been volunteering for this event and have just arrived and want to give back. So it’s it makes me feel like we’re in it together and I feel really grounded here. The Tres Reyes event just gives me a lot of joy because we’re with our families and they’re really the priority.”
For more information about celebrating or volunteering at Tres Reyes, contact Sara Sanchez, Communications Coordinator at [email protected].