Moments & Mirrors

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By: Amy Hinman

I photographed the Hispanic Festival for the second year in a row.

I like taking pictures. I like the weight of my camera in my hands; the way framing a shot makes me slow down and consider the world. I like how cameras can make moments that are fractions of a second last far longer than they should.

Festival was full of these shining, fleeting moments. Dancing in the light of the elephant ear vendor.  A baby’s grin as she bounced, strapped to her father’s back while he and her mother danced the Cumbia. The moment the clouds parted over the futsal court, throwing half the pitch into brilliant yellow sunshine. The first bite of elote.  In a sea of moments, I found these and froze them.

What I could not capture was how Festival took strangers and made them neighbors. For three days, Calder Plaza swelled with humans of all colors, from all places. Rather than seeking to erase those differences, Festival gave us space to celebrate them, to share experiences. Pressing against fellow dancers in front of the stage.  Adding salsa verde to tacos al pastor (con cebolla y cilantro). Leaning against the bleachers, watching kids play futsal.

As someone who is not Hispanic or Latino, I appreciated that. I appreciated how, even though my Spanish is holey, my family is European, and the tacos of my childhood were made with ground beef and shredded cheddar, I’m still welcomed with more grace than I should be allowed by my Latino friends, coworkers, and even strangers.

And despite all that makes us different, we were able to come together as a colorful, bright community, and enjoy the experience of Festival as one. We are allowed a community for a little while, even if it’s not all our own. These moments create passing mirrors that reflect our image of identity, leaving us to wonder—while we’re munching elote, while we’re dancing—which moments in the expanse of a lifetime will write our definition. Are we our first language, our hometowns, our fears, our passports, our skin? What moments, frozen, lingering, will we allow to shape us?

In a flash, a man appeared out of the Festival crowd.

“I’m from Brazil,” he explained, arms crossed over his chest. “Are there other Brazilians at the Hispanic Center?”

“No,” I said. “But there have been in the past. We have people there from all over.”

“Oh.” His face fell. “I’m just looking for my people.”

I nodded, and grasped my camera. Fingers curled around its body, I refrained from lifting it to my face and photographing his eyes, wistful now, and the color of warm earth.

“What about you? What are you?”

“Me? Oh, I’m just white.”

We stood there for a moment, silent and contemplative. I squeezed my camera again, images of my petite Polish grandmother, her steaming cabbage rolls, the failed Polish lessons in elementary school all running through my head. I am looking for my people, too.

“Ahh, well. Maybe I’ll come by. Volunteer.”

“Sure,” I said. “That’d be great.” He nodded, and disappeared back into the crowd. I continued photographing.

It was night, and chilly. People shivered lightly in sweatshirts, linking arms, standing close. The clouds parted and, through the tangle of lights, flags, and La Grand Vitesse, we could see the stars.

 

 

Amy Hinman is the Grant Writer & Social Media Specialist at the Hispanic Center.  She currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, and pet fish, Piccolo.