The sound of Mexican music reverberates throughout the courtyard at the Edinburg City Hall. Colorful papel picado dance above the crowd. Women and little girls walk proudly with their hair pulled back and crowns of colorful flowers adorning their head. They were among the thousands there to celebrate the iconic Mexican female artist Frida Kahlo.
FridaFest is one of 13 major annual events organized by Edinburg Cultural Arts, a division of the city’s library department. Edinburg Cultural Arts has a long history that dates back more than 80 years.
The creation of Cultural Arts Inc. in Edinburg was in 1938, bringing together many talented artists. But that was just the beginning. Since then the initial vision to promote art grew into much more. The division has a staff of four people organizing and planning these massive events that bring thousands together to celebrate. The FridaFest event in July relied on more than 50 volunteers to help make the event possible. The event drew more than 6,000 people.
“Planning for this event (FridaFest) doesn’t happen overnight,” Letty Leija, City of Edinburg library director, said. “Because FridaFest is part of the 13 Cultural Arts events, planning and marketing is a year-round process.”
Diversity in art
The mission of Edinburg Arts isn’t just promote the arts. It also promotes the diversity in the arts. It includes everything from visual and performing arts to literary arts.
“Aside from the diversity in art, we promote diversity and inclusion of the various cultural groups in our community,” Castle said. “We strive to bring marginalized groups to an equal platform.”
That is evident in events such as the Diwali: Festival of Lights, Filipino Festival and Juneteeth Jubilee. These festivals celebrate and represent our Hindu, Filipino and African-American communities. Most Edinburg Arts events draw thousands of people who don’t just come for the art or music. They are there to be part of that community that Edinburg Arts has created.
“When I was growing up, these types of events were unheard of,” Jerry Presas who attended FridaFest with his family, said. “They just didn’t exist, it was all work, chores, school and that’s it. It’s great that the City is doing something like this, it gives us that sense of togetherness.”
Presas added that he is happy that these events allow his granddaughter to not just be a part of something but also to learn about her culture, art and music, and they get to learn together.
“Along with promoting the arts and diversity, we also strive to provide a sense of community to all our residents and surrounding communities,” Castle said.
“We want to celebrate our humanity, the many things that we have in common, and contribute to each other’s human experience.”
Edinburg Arts became a 501c3 in 2012. The none-501c3 portion of Edinburg Arts became Edinburg Cultural Arts Division, which is part of the city. Other major Edinburg Arts events include “Out of This World” UFO conference and festival, and the South Texas International Film Festival held in September, bringing more than 2,000 filmmakers, artists, celebrities and viewers to the four-day event held throughout different parts of the city.