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‘Hoosier Latino Celebration’ hopes to start new traditions for Hispanic Heritage Month in Indianapolis

First annual Hoosier Latino Celebration

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Walk into Eli Lilly Hall at the Indiana Historical Society and you’ll notice a giant piñata-like art exhibit titled “La Popular.’”

Artist Justin Favela made the installation as a way to honor some of the first Mexican entrepreneurs, who started off making chocolate and other Mexican foods in East Chicago, Indiana.

“La Popular” is a featured exhibit for IHS’s new program, Hoosier Latino Celebration, which starts Saturday and runs through Sept. 30.

It aims to tell the stories of Latinos around the state during Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Friday. The program will highlight the culture through art, food, clothes, music, discussions, and more.

Favela isn’t from Indiana but says he was excited to find out about the rich history his community has throughout the area.

“You don’t hear a lot about Mexican history in places like the Midwest,” Favela said.

He drew inspiration for his piece from Mexican culture’s Catholic roots and a business of the same name, founded in East Chicago.

“In that area … there was also Our Lady of Guadalupe Church,” Favela said. “[It] was not only a Catholic church but was also a community meeting space where people…who came all the way from Mexico…felt that they could have a little piece of home there.”

IHS officials hope to make the Hoosier Latino Celebration an annual tradition.

IHS President and CEO Jody Blankenship says that for years, the museum has collected similar stories of Hispanics migrating to northwest Indiana and Indianapolis for a myriad of reasons.

“Their families have flourished here,” Blankenship said. “They’ve built strong communities. They build strong businesses and they’ve impacted all of us.”

Blankenship adds that Latino stories are Indiana stories.

“I just hope people will come here to hear some of those [stories] and identify with them,” Blankenship said. “Find their own place in Indiana.”

For Favela, it’s great to see representation in places that historically haven’t reflected his own experiences.

“For a Latino or Mexican to walk into this space and see something that is so specifically their culture, I hope it brings them a little bit of joy,” Favela said.

IHS will offer extra interactive programming called Heritage Days and Nights during the celebration. Those events are Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Admission can be booked online. Tickets tickets are $13 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 – 17. Kids under 5 get in free.

The museum is also offering a free day to check out the celebration on Sept. 30.