El Día de los Niños (The Day of the Children) has its roots in Latin America, although it is also celebrated in Asian and European countries. It is a worldwide celebration of the child and family. This day recognizes children, pays homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well-being.
In Madison, this year will mark the 10th anniversary of the annual El Día de los Niños event which will be held Saturday, May 4, at the Goodman Community Center. The event is a day of fun and culture and is designed for Latino children and their families. All activities will take place in Spanish.
“Every year, I think it’s very important for the Latin American residents that live in this country and in Madison to have this celebration,” says Fabiola Hamdan, chair of Latino Children and Families Council and organizer of the event. “We have this celebration in most of the Latin American countries. It is a set day — like Mother’s Day. El Día de los Niños is very meaningful to us because we don’t want our kids to lose the meaning of the tradition.”
The first local El Día de los Niños was held at the Salvation Army on Darbo Dr. 10 years ago where the organizers planned for 200 people only to see more than 800 people attend. Since then, the event has been held at the Sports Club in Oregon, the Boys and Girls Club, and now at Goodman Community Center on Madison’s near east side.
“The reason we’re doing it at the Goodman Community Center is because we feel like a lot of the Madison community centers don’t have activities for Latino youths,” Hamdan says. “It’s not necessarily the center’s fault, but we just need to make it visible to the Latino community that the Goodman Community Center exists and that they have programming.”
Hamdan has office hours at the Goodman Community Center and believes that it is an excellent facility. “I would like to see the communities integrated a little bit more,” she says. “Latino people are not only on Park Street, like everybody thinks. We are everywhere. All over the place. The Goodman Community Center is a great facility and have a great staff, but I would love to see Latino families use the facility more.”
“A big part of this event is giving the visibility to local authorities on how much the Latino population is growing — especially how young this population is,” Hamdan says. “[United States Congressperson] Marc Pocan will be coming. [MMSD Superintendent] Jennifer Cheatham will be there. We will have [Madison Police Chief] Noble Wray and [Dane County Executive] Joe Parisi. This event will give them a chance to appreciate the culture and the kids in a really festive and safe environment.”
Parents can come and get an ID for their kids through the LifeTouch. There will be information on FoodShare. The Madison Metropolitan School District will have information on their new 4K program. All of the agencies represented will have Spanish-speaking people present.
“It will be a fun event, but it will also be very informative,” Hamdan says. “We have newcomers and very young children and we want to get them some very specific information.”
Sponsors of El Día de los Niños include MG&E, Group Health Cooperative, Hawks Quindel SC, Arellano & Phebus, CUNA Mutual Group, UW Health, Meriter Hospital, La Movida & Voz Latina, Habaneros, Access Community Health Center, Brooks 4 Schools, Habaneros, Decoraciones Nayeli, and Goodman Community Center.
There will be plenty of activities, fun, music, games, and a variety of Latin American folk dance groups. Unlike past years, there won’t be a health fair component to the day.
“We are really growing as a community and we really wanted to focus on the celebration for the children,” Hamdan says. “With the Latino Health Council we did a lot of healthy check-ups, but it was hard to get your cholesterol checked and to go have fun with the kids. So, right now, parents should come ready to have fun with their children and also receive lots of valuable information.”
There will be activities for the youth, a live DJ playing reggae and rap. There will be dancing, open mic, and capoeira. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Edgewood College, and Madison College will be there bringing information about education and employment for Latino youth.
“We will have a workshop on deferred action so youth can learn about that led by attorney Ramona Natera,” Hamdan said.
On June 15th, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.
El Día de los Niños will also feature the Parade of Latin American Nations.
“We have so many things going on this year, it’s going to be crazy. It’s a lot of work putting all of this together — it’s like I have my wedding every year,” Hamdan laughs. “But I have a great team at El Día de los Niños. We have so many excellent sponsors and volunteers. We have all of these talented people working together to make this day a success.
“Hopefully, the outcome of this event is that people are exposed to the growth of the Latino community,” she adds.
The annual El Día de los Niños event will be held Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St. If you have any questions or would like to participate and/or volunteer, please contact Fabiola Hamdan at Hamdan@countyofdane.com or (608)246-2967