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‘Uniting the community’: Roseland festival honors Cesar Chavez through music, dance and health education

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Santa Rosans celebrated the birthday of the late Cesar Chavez on Sunday afternoon with a variety of music and dance.

The famed labor leader, who died in 1993 at the age of 66, was a quiet presence at the Cesar Chavez Festival at Bayer Farm, where dozens of local health and service providers passed out pamphlets and talked with families who strolled by the Roseland neighborhood park. Though Chavez’s image was present on volunteers’ shirts and the “passports” carried around by attendees wandering from booth to booth, the event was far from a labor rally or political gathering, and that was intentional, said emcee Hugo Mata of Soluna Outreach Solutions, which co-sponsored the event.

“While he was a very political figure, he was also about uniting the community,” Mata said.

Mata was a willing participant in the dancing, which came in waves: Aztec rhythm and movement, a Zumba routine, and traditional Mexican folk dancing. Though Latin dancing attracted the largest crowds, the Zumba exercise also proved popular for attendees who wanted to sweat in the afternoon sun.

Event organizer Gustavo Sanchez, who works at PDI Surgery Center, a co-sponsor, said the festival’s aim was to promote health and wellness while remembering Chavez and his legacy.

Walking around the perimeter, festivalgoers were able to check their blood pressure, get dental hygiene tips, and learn about growing their own food. Among the more popular booths was that of the Early Learning Institute, which gave away yardsticks intended to measure the growth of youngsters, who preferred to use them as toys.

As her yardstick-toting sons ran around, Beth Dadko of Santa Rosa said she attended in part so her kids could experience Latin culture, including a primer on Chavez on the way to the park.

“There’s just so many parts of our community, and I just want them to be exposed to a broad spectrum,” she said. “And this is such a big part.”

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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