Celebrating Hispanic Culture, Soccer

Celebrating Hispanic Culture, Soccer

La Voz Bridges Gap, Celebrates Diversity

In one week, a Sterling-based nonprofit will celebrate Loudoun's Hispanic community through music, food and soccer.

La Voz, an organization that promotes a sense of community throughout the local immigrant populations, will hold its third annual Family Festival and Soccer Tournament, Saturday, Aug. 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Potomack Lakes Sportsplex, next to Algonkian Park in Sterling.

La Voz president Laura Valle looks forward to meeting local Hispanic families in a light-hearted setting.

"This is an opportunity to have a fun event for a community that works so hard and doesn't often have a chance to celebrate with their families," she said.

ON THE MORNING of the festival, local soccer players will participate in a tournament composed of eight teams made up of players from Central and South America.

The soccer tournament provides men 18 years and older an opportunity to play on regulated fields with official referees. Loudoun County doesn't have a men's league, Valle said, and it is difficult to find available playing fields because there are so many youth leagues in the area.

"For them, it's an opportunity to play on really nice fields," she said. "They never get that."

Through the annual soccer tournament, La Voz hopes to mobilize local Hispanic men and help them organize their own league, in order to gain access to fields. The games also give them a chance to show off their skills.

"This is high-level play, so the games are really exciting to watch," Valle said.

IN ADDITION to soccer, La Voz will celebrate Hispanic culture through food, music and family activities.

The event will be catered by an El Salvadorian food vendor, serving traditional foods, like rice and beans and pupusas, tortillas filled with beans, cheese and pork.

Washington, D.C.'s Spanish-language radio station El Zol 99.1 will fill the air with Latin beats.

In addition to a live disc jockey, La Voz will host two live performances beginning at 3 p.m. The Latin Sound Band will play a variety of traditional sounds, such as salsa, merengue and bachata, popular dance music from the Dominican Republic. After that, Jancy will perform Reggaeton, popular music developed in Puerto Rico in the mid-1990s that blends reggae, rap and Latin music.

The most important element to the family festival is its outreach program. Beginning at 1 p.m., La Voz representatives, local organizations and businesses will set up tables to inform the Latin community of services they may not know about.

La Voz acts a conduit between the Hispanic population, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and other groups, in order to promote self-sufficiency in the community, through advocacy, education, open forums, and programs that strengthen family networks, Valle said. The family festival is one way to do that.

Local organizations, like the county's Gang Response Intervention Team (GRIT) will set up a table at the family festival, to inform community members of their services.

"There will be employment opportunities at the family festival," Valle said.

Companies, like Alexandria-based Miller and Long Construction Company will be there to interview potential employees.

AFTER CAREFUL planning, La Voz's members anticipate a successful festival.

"The biggest challenge for us has been scheduling the event," she said, "because the Hispanic community in our target population works all of the time."

Valle said she hopes she picked a time convenient for all Loudoun County families.

"We hope to get a good turnout," she said. "It will be fun for everyone. It's a great way to get a sample of Latino culture and good soccer."