Oxford celebrates 14th annual UniDiveristy Festival


Cultural dancing and costumes such as these from  a previous year’s festival will be part of the fun again at this year’s UniDiversity festival Uptown on Friday, Sept. 20. Photo courtesy of Enjoy Oxford.

By Marla Chavez Garcia

Oxford’s annual Latin American and Caribbean UniDiversity Festival, hosted by Miami University’s Center for American and World Cultures, will be from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 in Uptown Park. 

The event expects to draw 1,500 to 2,000 participants and to encourage participation in three civic campaigns, said Jaqueline Rioja Velarde, associate director of Miami University’s Center for American and World Cultures. 

The festival’s first campaign is to encourage voter registration. The second campaign will be to encourage participation in Census 2020, run by the City of Oxford and the Miami student group, Latin X.  The third campaign will be to support families in the hurricane ravaged Bahamas. Literature explaining the campaigns will be available at the festival.

“It’s not just about the (music and dance) performances, it is trying to encourage people to be civically engaged as well,” Velarde said.

Food, live music, traditional dances, games and prizes will also be part of the festival, celebrating Latino and Hispanic cultures to kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Velarde said this festival is not only a Miami event, but a combined effort with the Oxford community. 

“It is a collaboration between different departments from Miami, but also the community,” Velarde said.

In past years, the festival has drawn attendees from surrounding areas in southwest Ohio, as well as from the city of Oxford and the Miami campus. This will be the 14th UniDiversity festival, although the event was canceled last year because of high winds.

“As the Mayor of Oxford said during the City Council meeting, it’s one of the best events in town and everyone is picked to be part of that somehow,” Velarde said. 

Oxford Mayor Kate Rousmaniere issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 Hispanic Heritage Month in Oxford, coinciding with National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The UniDiversity festival was created in the early 2000s, when the Center for American and World Cultures was in charge of initiatives related to diversity and inclusion at the university. The mission was to create an environment to foster diversity and inclusion by integrating the study of it into the curriculum. 

As a result of its efforts, the center received a grant that allowed it to create this festival, Velarde said.