SPRING HILL, Fla. — As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a community festival marking the occasion in Hernando County was canceled this year because of COVID-19. Last year’s event was canceled, too.
Vivian Rivera, Founder and President of the Hernando County Hispanic Heritage Foundation, says the annual festival would normally bring out thousands of people.
“We had our fingers crossed and hope that in 2021 we were going to come back stronger.”
Their last in-person event was in 2019. Vivian says when she first started the foundation, Hispanic Heritage wasn’t something many in the community celebrated. She says something was needed to instill a sense of pride in our youth and keep the culture thriving.
Since then, she says they’ve come a long way in raising awareness. Now, even Hernando County commissioners officially recognize Hispanic Heritage Month. They mark the occasion with a proclamation given to the foundation each year.
“We have a proclamation that acknowledges our contributions, our men in service, our teachers our scientists, we’re everywhere,” Rivera said.
Census numbers report nearly 15 percent of the population in Hernando is Hispanic. While it’s a small percentage of the county, their impact is big.
In addition to celebrating heritage, part of the foundation’s mission is to support education by awarding scholarship to local teens. This year’s recipient is Sky Lynn Rodriguez, a 15-year-old, 11th-grade student.
Sky Lynn represents both the Panamanian and Puerto Rican cultures. Throughout the year she’ll work with the foundation to stay involved in the community and encourage others to take pride in who they are.
"Our vision is to be salt and light of the earth. Giving back to the community and being able to drop a sprinkle into every youth looking for answers and give them a sense of belonging," Vivian said.
Even though the local festival was canceled, Vivian and a small group, including the scholarship winner, represented Hernando in the Florida Puerto Rican parade in Orlando this past weekend. They hope things are back to normal this time next year.