By Anisah Abdullah and Eric Schmid
The Organización Latino-Americano (OLA) of Eastern Long Island hosted its 13th Annual Latino Film Festival to promote cultural awareness in the East End on November 11 and 12.
Each year, the bilingual festival showcases internationally-acclaimed Spanish language films with English subtitles from Central and South America. This year’s two-day event featured the Argentinian film “Un Tango Mas” at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill the first night, and the Ecuadorian film “Vengo Volviendo” at Guild Hall in East Hampton the second night.
“The East End has a growing community of Latinos that work out here in so many areas,” Grisel Baltazar, a docent at the Parrish, said. “Having a film festival brings art, culture and continues the vibrant energy of the community. It also interlaces the Latino and Hispanic culture, which is a beautiful thing.”
Although this year’s event, which saw more than 200 people, featured mezcal tastings and an art exhibition tour at the Parrish, it encompassed more than just a fun night out. Part of OLA’s mission is to connect and unify the Latino and non-Latino communities within the East End.
“People think they know about us, but they don’t really know about us,” Isabel Sepulveda, a Chilean immigrant and founder of OLA, said. “We are from 22 different countries. So I thought [the film festival] would be a good way to educate the people without bad taste.”
“One sentiment that I’ve enjoyed receiving is real kind of surprise that someone didn’t know that aspect of that culture,” Minerva Perez, the executive director of the OLA, said. “People walk away experiencing something that was unexpected and usually really great.”
The Rural and Migrant Ministry, a nonprofit that seeks to represent New York’s rural and migrant communities, had the opportunity to present a five-minute video before “Un Tango Mas” on Friday. The video showcased the organization’s June human rights march for migrant farmers in Albany.
“People get very surprised because they have no idea what we do,” Boris Martinez, a Salvadoran migrant farmer on the North Fork and member of the Rural and Migrant Ministry, said. “We work 70 hours [a week]. We don’t have paid holiday. We don’t have a bonus. I have no benefits.”
This event came just days after Donald Trump was named President-Elect. Trump’s 10-point immigration plan promises to ramp up deportation and build a wall on the Mexican border. Some guests expressed concern about what this meant for them.
“We’re already in shock because of the victory of Trump,” Martinez said. “All the farmers like me are together and will do whatever we have to do.”
The festival offered a haven for the local community to come together regardless of political views.
“Art typically, or historically, is the answer to times like these,” Perez said. “It lets us into each other’s cultures.”