Tamale fest raises funds for Latino programs

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A Tacos El Guero chef mans the grill and prepares tortillas at the inaugural Tamale Festival in 2014. This year’s festival is Sept. 27 in Gilroy.

Three years ago, CARAS—the Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services—first opened its doors in Gilroy to offer assistance to the Latino community. The nonprofit organization picked up where MACSA—Mexican American Community Services Agency—left off when it closed its downtown Gilroy office.
CARAS provides a variety of services to South County communities, such as offering restoration programs to at-risk youths, providing advocacy for undocumented residents who report domestic violence or sexual assault, and establishing leadership groups for young men of color at Mount Madonna Continuation School in Gilroy and Central High School in Morgan Hill.
“We look at South County as Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill,“ said Reymundo Armendariz, community organizer for CARAS. “We look at that as our area that we need to bring services to, because the smaller the area, the more the need for services.”
To keep these programs going, CARAS organizes annual events that not only raise much needed funding, but also offer the community a chance to experience the Latino culture.
“We want to make sure and use cultural events to bring awareness to the people who are not familiar with the Latino culture or community, to see there is a lot more depth and beauty to our culture,” said Carlos Flores, CARAS board member and sergeant of arms.
Last year’s Tamale Festival was their biggest fundraiser to date. Anticipating attendance to be in the low hundreds, over 3,500 people attended the one-day event and 5,000 tamales were sold.
“We ran out of tamales, and we made a lot of them,” said Art Barron, CARAS chairman of the board.
The second annual Tamale Festival, sponsored by CARAS and El Charrito Market, takes place on Sept. 27 in the heart of downtown Gilroy featuring samplings of tamales from southern Mexico and the tropical and desert regions of the country, each bringing their own distinct flavors. There will even be a tamale-making contest with cash prizes.
Entrance to the non-alcoholic festival is free of charge.
“The Tamale Fest is unity, because we’re doing it for the community,” explained Flores.
This year’s festival will be much larger than the last, with 20 food stands, a low-rider car show and bike show, two stages, 12 bands performing in both Spanish and English, a youth Mariachi group, a folklorico dance group and a kids’ zone. All funds raised will go directly to CARAS programs and services.
“When you come to our event. not only are you able to eat the food and listen to the music, but you’re being educated, too, and that’s a big part of our events and our mission programs,” Amendariz said.
Shirley Trevino, treasurer for CARAS, explained that the organization wants everyone to be involved.
“We are reaching out to community members, as well as organizations, to get to know us, to see who we are, and hopefully in the future create some collaborations,” Trevino said.
Gilroy Mayor Don Gage is one community member already collaborating with CARAS.
“Mayor Gage is a big supporter of us, of CARAS,” Barron said. “He’s donated to our tamale festival and is also one of the judges.”
Having the support of the city is important to CARAS. Barron said they want to work hand in hand with city leaders on any issues that come up in the community.
Presently, CARAS is focused on immigration and juvenile services with hopes of expanding and bringing additional services to all areas and providing a one-stop shop for those in need.
“We want to establish ourselves as a nonprofit serving South County,” Armendariz said.
Through the continuation of their annual fundraising events, including the Dia de los Muertos celebration, the Cesar Chavez Day Cultural Celebration and the Community Champion Awards Banquet, CARAS intends to continue to pursue its mission, spreading the word throughout the South County area that people in need have an advocate with the organization.
CARAS will be their voice.
“We want to make sure CARAS is around and this stuff keeps on going after we’re gone,” Flores said. “But at the same time, we want to make sure we’re involved consistently until we can’t.”
For more information about the tamale fest and CARAS organization, go to facebook.com/CARASSSouthCounty or call (408) 842-7898.
Second Annual Tamale Festival
Noon–7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27
Monterey Road (between Third & Sixth) in Downtown Gilroy

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