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Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The Midwestern U.S. city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is home to many immigrants and their descendants from many different cultures, and this ethnic mix is celebrated with a number of summer festivals. In this report prepared by Faiza Elmasry, Carol Pearson tells us about Milwaukee's Mexican Fiesta, one of the largest Hispanic Festivals in the Midwest.

The Mexican fiesta is one of the most important summer ethnic events in Milwaukee. The city looks and sounds like Mexico for one summer weekend each year.

Sara Lopez came with her family all the way from Mexico to attend the festival. "We come every year. We love the food, the music, the culture, the different variety from all over Mexico."

The three-day event includes lots of music and dancing and children's workshops on how to make traditional Mexican paper crafts, And of course, there are the artisans. More than 250 come from Mexico and other countries.

One fabric artist, Anita Perez, says, "Every design means something in our culture."

Fifty-one-year-old fabric artist Anita Perez offers festivalgoers a glimpse of how she hand weaves her products.

Rosy Lozano of Leon, Mexico, says over the last five years, her company's furniture has been one of the festival's best sellers. "This furniture with metal, iron, glass and wood is special. The people here are very happy to see the furniture."

Traditional Mexican bread is another popular item. "First of all it's all natural. It's not overly sweet" says Mexican American Dora Baca was one of more than 1,000 Milwaukee residents who volunteered at the festival this year.

Twelve-year-old Victor Zorita was another. "I get to learn how to bake. It's a lot of fun."

The enthusiastic work of volunteers made it possible for the Mexican Fiesta to become one of the most popular annual tourist attractions in Milwaukee.

And this year, the festival celebrated its 30th anniversary, says Craigorio Montoto, Mexican Fiesta Vice President. "We bring in about 75,000 people (visitors)."

Montoto says the festival also attracts many people from outside the Latino communities.

Lebanese American Maha Balabaki says she is attracted to the festival for more than one reason. "I like the things that they have for sale. The food is good and the music is nice to listen to."

Along with sharing the Latino heritage, the festival has another objective. Organizers try to raise as much money as possible during the three days of the festival for an education fund, Montoto says. "Every year we give about $70,000, $80,000 in scholarships for students to attend universities. Not only Mexicans, but Hispanics."

He says that objective encourages both Hispanics and non-Hispanics to spend even more money while having fun with friends and family.