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Sault's Latin-Hispanic club event aims to take COVID stress away

Northern Ontario Latin-Hispanic Association has grown, all welcome to attend September outdoor celebration
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The Sault’s first annual Northern Ontario Latin-Hispanic Association (NOLHA) Gala Latina, a celebration of Hispanic and Brazilian culture, was held at The Delta Hotel, Sept. 28, 2019, with an outdoor dance celebration now scheduled for Sept. 11, 2021. Darren Taylor/SooToday

You don’t have to be an expert at Latin-Hispanic dancing to attend the Northern Ontario Latin-Hispanic Association (NOLHA) Salsa al Parque (Dancing in the Park) cultural gathering and celebration, to be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday Sept. 11 at The Roberta Bondar Pavilion.

NOLHA, a Sault-based, registered not-for-profit group, dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of Latin-American and Brazilian culture and heritage in the Sault and across northern Ontario, is encouraging the public to attend and enjoy cultural dancing and upbeat Latin music at the Pavilion.   

“I just want people to learn that dance is an expression of the soul. We just want people to enjoy themselves,” said NOLHA’s Sandra Mongui, speaking to SooToday.

The free event, NOLHA’s first during these COVID days, is free and open to all ages.

“Everyone in the community is welcome. I would like to see seniors, I would like to see everyone enjoy music and dancing. Dance is health, it’s mental health. Let’s take out all this COVID stress through dance. It can be therapeutic for all of us,” Mongui said.

NOLHA is marking its 10th year in existence.

“NOLHA started in 2011 in a very informal way, with Latino friends from Chile, Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil. We wanted to enjoy a bit of culture so we started with an informal event, the first event being at Docks, which is now Montana’s,” said Mongui, a native of Colombia.

NOLHA started up in a formal manner in 2013 and now has about 60 official members, but Mongui said the group has attracted approximately 850 Sault and northern Ontario followers and supporters who have attended NOLHA events over the past few years.

“Sault College has brought in some Latin American students. They want to know more about Canada, and Canadians want to know who those students are, so we’ll be opening a new English conversational circle in September online with Jay Case (a Sault musician and NOLHA supporter) for Latinos to practice speaking English,” Mongui said.

Of NOLHA supporters, Mongui said “they are people in the community who have kind of joined us, and our intention is to promote Latin American culture in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury (and other northern Ontario communities).”

As reported by SooToday, NOLHA held a successful gala at the Delta Hotel in 2019, with plans for a follow up in 2020 derailed by COVID.

“This year, with COVID, we’re trying to involve more of the community by using an open space like The Roberta Bondar Pavilion. We want more people to be able to attend. We want everyone in the community, not just Latinos (to be aware of NOLHA),” Mongui said.

“We want the community to learn about us. This has always been our intention.”

Mongui said she and NOLHA are grateful to local figures such as Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano and Sault Ste. Marie Police Service Chief Hugh Stevenson for the welcoming support they have shown.

The first 150 families to arrive at Salsa al Parque Sept. 11 will receive gift bags containing such items as gift cards from local businesses, Mongui said, adding she especially appreciates the support of NOLHA by locally-owned Nor-Therm Ltd. (a heating and cooling company) and long standing NOLHA volunteers Mireya Mosquera, Mario Troya and Angelica Melchor.

Information about NOLHA and its events and activities can be found on its Facebook page.