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Pupusas and Chicharrones Remind Festivalgoers of Latin American Contributions
Monday, September 18, 2023


Mihai Gherman grew up in Romania. but came here to work for Sun Valley Resort and never left.

And this weekend he beamed as he took his young sons Jackson and Luca to the 6th annual Hispanic Heritage Festival held in Hailey.

“It’s very nice, good to see people out all having fun and learning about another culture,” said Gherman, who works at The Ram Restaurant. “And who doesn’t love tacos! But I want to try something else—there’s a Netflix documentary that shows you the street food of Latin America. And I want to find some of that.”

Within minutes Gherman found what he was looking for—pupusas, an El Salvadoran flatbread stuffed with cheese and other things that Lago Azul’s Sandy Cisneros, who came to the United States from El Salvador decades ago, was preparing on a grill outside.

Others tried such foods as chicharrones—a fruit cup featuring diced mango and various melons covered in orange juice, salsa picante and spices.

It was prepared by Manuel Zavala, who recently came from Michoacan, Mexica, to join his mother Maria Zavala and sister Itzel Chavez in the Wood River Valley.

“I was 3 when my family moved here—there was too much violence at our home in Mexico,” said Chavez. “Now I work as a nurse for a local doctor. We like that it is quiet here, that we don’t need to worry about the violence.”

The festival is an outgrowth of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began as a week-long observance signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. It was expanded to a month in legislation signed by president Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Now running from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, it celebrates the contributions and importance of Latin Americans and Mexicans to the United States.

Herbert Romero, who organized the local festival six years ago, noted that many of those in the Wood River Valley were watching Independence Day celebrations in the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala on Friday. On Saturday Mexicans celebrated their independence.

“This festival is American. Americans coming together and embracing one another’s heritage,” he said. “And this is the first time we’re doing it the whole weekend.”

Indeed, the Hailey Public Library organized pinata breaking, paper flower making and other activities Friday evening, while bands played Mexican music on Saturday at Hailey Town Center West. On Sunday, Los Angeles muralist John Zender Estrada showed some of his art work and gave a presentation as he prepared to paint a mural at H Property Service in Bellevue and other locations.

Estrada already has painted colorful murals of people and the land, butterflies and other wildlife, at Alturas Elementary, La Cabanita in Hailey, the exterior walls of the restroom at Hailey’s Hop Porter Park and the Bloom Community Food Center in Bellevue.

Among those taking part in the this weekend’s events was Enrique Nava, who lives in Hidalgo, Mexio. He was there with his sister Saraluz Nava Galicia and Kyle Schweitzer. He has visited in the winter, taking part in Higher Ground’s ski camps for wheelchair users. But he has never been the Wood River Valley in summer.

“He loves it,” said Galicia “He loves the flowers and the greenery, and he loves the sunshine. And he loves this festival.”


  • Local dancer Dirce Flores, a native of Mexico, will talk about the Guelaguetza festival in Oxaca, Mexico, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at Hailey Town Center West.
  • Peruvian native Jessica Maynard, who works with Visit Sun Valley, will discuss the culture of Peru from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, at Hailey Town Center West.
  • Musician Mauricio Molino Duque will discuss the culture of Colombia from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8.

    The free programs will be livestreamed on the Hailey Public Library’s YouTube channel and

  • A bilingual StoryWalk featuring “Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina” is currently outside Hailey Town Center West. The picture book by award-winning writer Peruvian American author Monica Brown is about a young girl of Peruvian and American heritage who also has snatches of African and other cultures in her family.

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