Event organizer

Local organizer contextualizes Memorial Day holiday for his community | Local

“When I see the pictures of the children who died in Uvalde, Texas, I see the same faces of our grand children who come to our afterschool program and our Latino children who go to school here in Colombia,” said Eduardo Crespi, director and co-founder of Centro Latino.

Latin Center is a non-profit community center that has served the Latino community, immigrants, refugees and the general public for the past two decades. The main services offered by the center are English lessons, Spanish lessons, a commercial kitchen and an after-school program.

Crespi is the father of two daughters, one 28 years old and one only 2 and a half years old.

When he heard the news of Uvalde’s shooting, his daughters weren’t the only children that came to mind.

“In a way that is not really understandable, I feel empowered to continue Centro Latino’s mission, which is to help our children succeed in life, through education, to empower our Latin American families , to help each other and to somehow protect each other from harm,” Crespi said.

When he’s not volunteering to oversee Centro Latino’s operations, Crespi works as a Florida-based travel nurse. After earning his Masters in Global Public Health, he specialized in the barriers Latinos face in accessing health resources.

Crespi figured that if he can’t stop the violence plaguing communities of color, he could at least work to preserve their lives through nutrition.

As a result, he began offering free vegetarian and vegan meals in his commercial kitchen.

“It’s just to offer information and vegetarian food to people who would like to try it and see if it will help them with their lifestyle, and maybe take charge of their own health,” Crespi said.

Centro Latino used to host a summer program for the end of the school year, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center has not had enough volunteers to keep the program going. Classes.

“What we would like to do over the summer is set up free meals for kids here at Centro Latino using our commercial kitchen,” Crespi said. “And we are working on it.”

With a small volunteer staff and Crespi’s demanding work schedule, the center only manages to distribute bulk meals once a month.

Before the centre’s dining hall closed, these distribution days were big community events with lines outside the door. These days, the staff relies on regulars like David Beversdorf not only to pick up meals, but also to make donations.

“It’s unreal, it’s absolutely fantastic food,” Beversdorf said. “And it’s all for a great cause that helps the Latino community in the city. And it’s like, how the hell can you put them together and not go support it?

Even though Beversdorf works at Columbia, he says he’s willing to drive the half-hour to Rocheport “when (he) can” for a meal.

Crespi said that this weekend being Memorial Day weekend, Beversdorf was one of the few people who stopped for a meal.

Over the years, he’s noticed similarities between how Americans observe holidays like Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day with barbecues, beer and “erasing their memories” rather than preserving them.

“It’s my personal opinion that Memorial Day should be extended not only to veterans, but to those who are not with us because of the violence,” Crespi said.

He said the only Latin party recognized by Centro Latino is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This holiday originated in Mexico and usually takes place in November. Although the accent is quite similar to Memorial Day, it remembers any family or friends who have passed away.

“Within our Latin American population, Dia de los Muertos is a very important realization to give thanks that we are still here and also to celebrate those who are not,” Crespi said. “And to me, that’s an example of traditional Memorial Day.”

One of the traditions of Dia de los Muertos is to build an altar filled with images or clothing of deceased loved ones. Centro Latino houses an altar with pictures of former volunteers, notable civil rights figures, and anyone else community members wish to recognize.

When it comes to Texas kids, Crespi said his respects might look a little different.

“I will hold these Texas kids in my heart,” he said. “I feel like you’re going to invade the privacy of these little angels, you know, so just acknowledging them today, for me, I think that’s enough.”