It felt like one big birthday party at the secluded American Legion Post 1 in Raleigh.
Outside, kids played soccer and jumped in the bounce house. Inside, adults cooked and served meals while music blasted in the background.
But it wasn’t a birthday, it was the first Ecuadorean festival in Raleigh. Ecuadorians United of North Carolina held the event Saturday to help connect dozens of people from their country and share their culture.
Otto Cedeño of Movil Realty is a third generation Ecuadorean who founded his small business in Durham and helped sponsor the event. He said there are a lot of Colombians in the area, but the Ecuadorean community is growing. Many are coming to North Carolina from big cities like Los Angeles and New York City to raise families.
As the owner of a real estate company, he reaches out to Hispanics and Ecuadoreans in the larger cities to advertise the lifestyle the Triangle area offers.
“It’s a better place to raise families. They can also get more for their money here,” he said.
He said Ecuadoreans began coming in large numbers to the United States just over the last few generations. Many who are older than 50 started and own small businesses. There is a strong sense of connectivity between Latin American small businesses and their community, Cedeño said. Festivals like Saturday’s encourage that.
Even Ecuadoreans who have been in the United States a few generations still identify as Latin Americans and hold tightly to their culture, he said. Most speak the native language and cook traditional food.
Saturday, families enjoyed the traditional the sausage soup caldo de salchicha, an omelet-type dish called Yapingacho and guatita con arroz, a potato-like dish served with rice.
Jeimmy Pearalta said the food is one of her favorite parts. She attended the festival with her parents and grandmother, who all moved to the state from Ecuador. Her mother, Angelica, found out about the event on Facebook and they decided to come to meet other Ecuadoreans in the area.
Pearalta said it’s fun to taste a little bit of traditional food from various parts of her home country.
Raul Herrera, chair of Gov. Pat McCrory’s Advisory Council on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, attended simply to meet more Ecuadoreans. His goal with the advisory council is to figure out how to let more Latinos know about government services that are available to them.
“Many Hispanics don’t know how agency services work. We want to bring those services to them,” Herrera said.
He said it’s his way of giving back to his community.
Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf