History of Fiesta Hispana
Under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy and his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in recognition of the national plight of Hispanics regarding lack of opportunities in business, employment, education, health, and myriad other areas of social development, the US Congress passed a bill in 1964 calling for an annual celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Week (it was declared a month-long celebration in 1980).
In 1972, under President Richard M. Nixon’s 16-Point Program, now called the Hispanic Employment Program, a few Kansas City areas Hispanic federal employees, in coordination with the Greater Kansas City Federal Executive Board initiated annual activities to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Week. The activities were held in various federal sector job sites. The Hispanic leaders eventually determined to extend the celebration into the metropolitan Hispanic community by organizing a parade from downtown Kansas City into downtown Armourdale, Kansas.
In 1981, Department of Housing and Urban Development Federal employees (Rebecca Jaramillo & Jose Gonzalez) and Guadalupe Center staff member (Ninfa Garza) developed the idea of sponsoring a fiesta in connection with the parade. They named it Fiesta Hispana in keeping with the national intent to celebrate all of the diverse Latino cultures including Mexican, Central and South American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Spanish in the US Hispanic population. The parade was discontinued due to federal cutbacks in financial-logistical support, as well as cumbersome city codes and other requirements. Fiesta Hispana continued in the heart of Kansas City’s Mexican community along Southwest Boulevard in 1982 and 1983, attracting thousands into the small ill-suited space.
In 1983, it was recommended that the fiesta be moved from Southwest Boulevard to Kansas City's newly constructed Barney Allis Plaza where many more people could gather comfortably. This was achieved with political support from Kansas City's first Hispanic City Councilman, Bobby Hernandez.
On April 12, 1984, Jose Gonzalez, Rebecca Jaramillo, and Ninfa Garza, with volunteer assistance from attorney-at-law William Lopez, incorporated the Greater Kansas City National Hispanic Heritage Committee (GKCNHHC) as a State of Missouri tax-exempt corporation and obtained IRS Federal 501(c)3 non-profit tax exempt status in August 1984.
The following month, September 1984, Fiesta Hispana attracted over 10,000 Hispanic and non-Hispanic individuals and families with children eager to learn of their ancestry, searching for opportunities, and people in general seeking enjoyment and enlightenment.
Fiesta Hispana, in Kansas City’s Barney Allis Plaza, has become the largest and most successful Hispanic fiesta event in the Midwest, attracting more than 40,000 local and out-of-town visitors to downtown Kansas City each year. Fiesta Hispana’s mission is to promote wide recognition and appreciation for the significant role and contributions of Hispanics in the development of the United States through promoting cultural, educational and economic development advancement of the Hispanic community.
Fiesta Hispana presents more than 75 professionally designed fiesta booths – among these is a large children’s area which provides special activities for small children and their parents and a number of area colleges and universities that conduct youth outreach efforts during the fiesta. As part of educating the public, there is an impressive historical exhibit which documents, with photographs and news stories, the history of many local Hispanic settlers, as well as an exhibit of fine art. A number of food vendors sell a variety of delicious authentic Latino and non-Latino foods from popular area restaurants and homes. Other booths offer internationally imported jewelry, clothes, games, activities, consumer information, employment opportunities, health services, and more.
As part of the GKCNHHC’s on-going support of educational development, LULAC National Educational Services Centers, Inc. (LNESC) is one of the major partners that benefits from Fiesta Hispana with funds raised through the selling of Pepsi products. This is an exclusive contract with Pepsico Beverage Corporation which allows LNESC to raise much-needed funds for local high school and college students.
Fiesta Hispana continuously features three days of a wide variety of entertainment, which includes international and national groups of folkloric and Spanish dance, as well as music from Mariachi and Tejano to Venezuela, Chile, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, and much more.
With a Board of Directors of 12 individuals, the Greater Kansas City National Hispanic Heritage Committee expanded its efforts by hosting other events throughout the Kansas City area during the year. Currently, its other events are a St. Patrick’s Tejano/Oldies Dance in Midtown and a Halloween Dance in Midtown. Over the past few years, efforts to help other individuals/organizations (via fundraisers) has evolved. The Board has held various, very successful fundraisers throughout the years that have benefitted Guardian Angels Church, Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Church, KKFI 90.1 FM, the Ortega Family (Topeka, KS) – Esophageal Cancer Awareness, and the Pecina Family (Kansas City, MO) – Mental Health/Suicide Awareness.
Our sponsors give vital support to the GKCNHHC’s mission by sponsoring Fiesta Hispana. Our success depends on the support from sponsors and the community. Past and currents sponsors include the City of KCMO Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund, Kansas City Convention & Visitors Bureau, Consulado de Mexico en Kansas City, Sprint Foundation, KCP&L, Pepsico Beverage Corporation, United Beverage, Commerce Bank, County Financial, MGN Promotions, Univision 48 of Kansas City, Truman Medical Centers, Costco, Kansas City Hispanic News, the Kansas City Star, KKFI – 90.1 FM, Reyes Media Group (Dos Mundos Bilingual Newspaper, La Grande – 1340 AM, and La Super X – 1250 AM), La Mega – 1160 AM, Lamar Advertising, KSHB – Channel 41, Shamrock Storage, Sporting Kansas City, the Port Authority of Kansas City, University of Missouri – Kansas City, and the Aladdin and Marriott Hotels.