There’s another festival with an international flavor celebrating Acadiana’s heritage this weekend – it’s the New Iberia Spanish Festival, which begins Friday.
Brinkley Lopez and Jim Viator, officers in the organization, and in Viator’s case the King of this year’s festival, say they’re ready to help those of Spanish descent celebrate and learn about their heritage.
“We’re celebrating 240 years since the founding of New Iberia, when the settlers from Málaga, Spain, arrived in 1779,” Viator said. “It’s a matter of education, to teach people how they can benefit from knowing about their heritage. Knowing your culture and knowing where you come from and why we do some of the things we do is a good thing.”
Even if you don’t have that heritage, it’s good to learn the history of the place where you live, he adds.
“The Spanish people came here and worked together with all kinds of people. They helped the Acadians, they helped other races of people who were here already,” Viator said. “People who know something about history of south Louisiana know the Spanish made a big contribution to humanity, and to all the different races getting along, they were very important in that endeavor.”
Viator said the group also promotes the speaking of Spanish, which once was very common in New Iberia.
A big feature of the festival is the dish paella, which is a saffron-spiced rice dish that usually contains seafood and vegetables.
“It’s sort of like jambalaya, but with different ingredients,” Viator said. “I think jambalaya was a spin-off of paella.”
Lopez, who said her maiden name is Segura, said that the festival has enjoyed growth over the past several years.
“We hope it keeps growing and growing,” she said.
If you’ve never been, be sure to try the food and check out the genealogy displays, she advised. The music is great, and there’s a Running of the Bulls – but it’s a 5K where the only animals are dogs, because it’s a pooch-friendly event, she said.
“Eating the paella and drinking the sangria is my favorite,” she said. “I also love listening to the music.”
For more information, you can visit the festival’s website here.
Here’s the schedule of events: