The potential end the of DACA program in six months provoked a flurry of responses from communities nationwide. That includes Western North Carolina, even though the Hispanic and Latino population in the region isn’t very big.
The Latino population in the mountains is only about six percent of the overall population according to the Census Bureau. About ten percent of that group lives right here Henderson County, and they’re out in force, celebrating their heritage and culture downtown, for the second annual Fiesta Hendersonville.
"We love it," exclaimed 17-year-old Katrina Moreno, who came along with some friends for the dancing. "Everyone needs a fiesta sometimes."
The event’s a big hit. Dozens of vendors and hundreds of locals have flooded the southern part of downtown. It wouldn’t be a fiesta if there weren’t some dancing in the street.
Jose Pace is among the dancing mob. He’s drumming on the back of a vihuela.
“They doin’ a great job with this fair. Elsewhere is a little different. There is a lot of support for the Hispanic and Latino communities in Henderson.”
Sporadically his drumsticks smack down onto a big black sticker, which in white letters reads “Support DREAMERS – Save DACA”. Even here, in the thick of the festivities—the DACA decision is not far off from anyone’s mind. Now, Pace is not a DACA recipient, but he does know a few, and says he can relate.
“I grew up pretty much… 98.8 percent of my life in good ol’ Hendersonville, and in the mountains. So that’s a pretty long time.”
Around the corner, eighteen-year-old Anna Manzano is collecting signatures. It’s a petition to save the DACA program—something she has been a recipient of for the last four years… She’s very proud and motivated.
“I’m a super senior at Hendersonville Early College, I work for the Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County, and I work for Centro of Henderson County. I am a board member for Centro, and Teen Outreach. I help my community.”
Manzano’s lived in Hendersonville for most of her life. She lives alone with her single mother, who works overtime packing tomatoes at a nearby factory. It’s been her dream to become a psychologist now for years.
“My parents brought me here, I had no option. They brought me here for a better opportunity because we were escaping from a place where we didn’t have opportunities. Hendersonville looked like a great opportunity for us. If I were to get deported, all my dreams would be crushed and destroyed. All my life I’ve been here. Everything we have is here. Our home. Everything.”
For Zuri Anuel, the Latino Program Director at the Carolina Small Business Development Fund, the president’s DACA decision had a chilling effect on the local Latino community—at least at first. However, she says that’s changed somewhat.
“A lot of people are worried, and they’re concerned. There’s churches coming together, bringing families, giving them advices and attorneys. My hope is nothing’s going to happen, and DACA is going to continue as it has been for now.”
With the turnout of today’s Fiesta, and with the work of people like Manzano, Anuel is hopeful these days.
“The idea of us being here today is just to show everyone that there are different cultures, but we are all people, and we are all equal, it’s just that we have a different culture and a different language. There are a lot of different cultures coming together for this event.”
Less than a week after President Trump’s decision to end DACA, protests were held in Macon, Jackson, Haywood, Henderson and Buncombe Counties. Nearly a month afterward, area groups are promising even more demonstrations, and Manzano will keep collecting signatures.