A clown performing songs in Spanish for an audience of kids and their parents, while younger children run around with balloon animals had just the right amount of joy to make a stressed community forget its problems … even if only for half a day.
The scene was a welcome respite for a community that is feeling pressure from Trump administration policies. A recent free community fair raised awareness for mental health among a South Philly’s Mexican and Central American communities.
Vive Philly: Integration, Wellness and Developing Community featured live music, children’s entertainment, information tables on community agencies and more. “The Hispanic community, especially Mexicans and Central Americans, is having a very hard time right now under this administration,” freelance journalist and event co-organizer Emma Restrepo said. “Problems like depression and anxiety associated with alcohol are causing problems in the community.”
Restrepo collaborated with event organizer and PhilaTinos Radio creator Edgar Ramirez in putting Vive Philly together. “We decided to work with the community for this event to enjoy and leave their houses for three or four hours,” Restrepo said. “Also, we are showing Philadelphians [overall] that Mexican and Central Americans are a part of the community. We are showing people that families are here and that alcohol is not the answer. We are saying alcoholism is an enemy of working hard and finding our dreams.”
Restrepo noted that immigrant citizens’ lives have been negatively affected so much that they cannot do household tasks as they normally would. “People usually don’t understand how it feels to be persecuted by the government,” Restrepo said. “Working in the area, I know that Mexican and Central Americans are changing their schedules because they are afraid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They are no longer going to the laundry places weekly and are going every two or three weeks instead. They prefer to go at the end of the day because they don’t want too much attention and don’t want to go outside.”
According to Restrepo, the past summer saw many Mexican and Central American children that would typically be playing outside, spent their vacations inside due to parents’ fears of children being approached by immigration officers.
Carla is a 15-year-old that took solace in Vive Philly’s fun and informational atmosphere. “I think this is the first year that we’ve had this event and maybe we are going to do it every year. If it can inspire the community, I want us to keep doing it.”
Noel Aragon serves the community as a constituent services representative for Councilman David Oh and takes pride in his office having a presence at Vive Philly. “In my main role for the councilman, I do constituent services but I focus on the Latino community, so I am always interested in attending these types of events,” Aragon said. “We’ve been coming to the South Philly area a lot lately and visiting the Mexican and Central American community that lives here because we think that this is a big community that is growing and brings a lot of good things to the city economically and culturally. We see the importance of that.”
Aragon emphasized that Councilman Oh’s office sponsored Vive Philly based on the event’s mission to help advocate for mental health awareness in the Mexican and Central American community. “We wanted to be at this event and are one of the sponsors of this event because we think that it’s a good thing to bring awareness to issues that this community has,” Aragon said. “[When people] think of the Latino community, they think about issues of immigration and that type of thing, but we don’t stop to think about these other things that are going on. In this case, that’s mental health and trying to take care of the community.”
“A lot of these people leave their country and families behind. They have to deal with that and come to a new place where it’s very easy for them to fall into [certain] things. There are a lot of cases of [alcoholism] in our community, where people get depressed and seek alcohol as a way of getting out of it. We need to bring awareness to that and try to take care of that.”