COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Hispanic Heritage Month is now underway across the country. From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 there will be events, celebrations and festivals to recognize the contributions and culture of all Hispanic countries.

City Hall in Columbus was lit up in the vibrant colors of all Latino countries.

Council member Lourdes Borroso de Padilla helped plan the Latino Heritage Parade around City Hall that will take place on Sept. 16.

“All of that isn’t just about a celebration. It really is an economic driver for small businesses, it’s a way to create a sense of belonging for folks, and it’s a way that we again celebrate the diversity that makes up Columbus,” she said.

Council Member Borroso de Padilla is the first Latina council member in the history of the City of Columbus. She is proud of the growth in the community, saying the Hispanic population has tripled since the 1980’s. 

“We’re excited this year we’ve doubled the size of the parade. We had 22 organizations and participants last year, we have 45 this year. And they span from grassroots organizations to student groups at OSU to ERG’s from some of our major corporations here in Columbus,” she said.

In addition to the lights on City Hall commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month, Broad Street next to City Hall has a new name. The pink sign now reads ‘Nuetra Plazita Blvd” which means “our place.”

“In every Latin American country there’s a plaza that is the center of the city where people come to celebrate, build community, etcetera. So, city hall literally, we say this is the people’s house, it will literally be Nuetra Plazita where people can celebrate. We’ll have food trucks, music, folkloric dancers,” Borroso de Padilla said.

She sees great opportunity for central Ohio, where the population of Hispanic residents is roughly equal to the city of Dayton.

“If you invest in people who are further away from justice all boats rise. So, at a time when we’re really thinking about the growth of the city and who is coming to Columbus, they’re coming here with the promise of prosperity and it’s up to us to complete that promise to them,” she said.

The celebrations didn’t wait for the parade, however, with several taking place across Columbus Friday night.

In Gahanna, Yahaira Rose and her non-profit “Proyecto Mariposas” held their 4th community Quincineara. 

“A beautiful tradition. A latino tradition, and we wanted to do it with girls that couldn’t pay for it because it can get really expensive,” Rose said.

Nine girls from all different backgrounds celebrated together. 

“Nicaragua, they’re representing Columbia, they’re representing Mexico, they’re representing El Salvador, they’re representing a lot of different countries. And they come together, they’ve never met before. So, they come together with the program and then we celebrate with their families at the end,” Rose said.

Jannet Soto was one of the nine girls taking part in the tradition of becoming a young woman in front of friends and family. There was one family member she missed. 

“It’s like a whole bunch of emotions to be honest. My dad passed away so it’s kind of hard not being with him today. It’s just a huge thing for him and my family,” Soto said.

Laura Diaz was also participating in the quinceanera. She talked about how much she loved getting to know the other girls and learning about their cultures. 

“Excited. Super excited. There’s a lot of people waiting for us, looking at us and dancing. And I feel nervous too,” Diaz said.

Proyecto Mariposas helps the girls buy a dress and prepares all the details of the festive tradition with a dinner and dance for their families.

Elsewhere in Columbus, Dante Garcia continues the tradition he learned from his father, bringing people together through “jogo bonito” or the “beautiful game.”

He started Columbus Futsal Club in 2006 to help teach young kids how to play the street soccer style game.

“My dad being from Peru, myself, my family being from Peru, it has a really big impact on our culture. The way we play, the style of soccer we play, how we live our life, you know it’s like a dance,” Garcia said. He started the club almost twenty years ago and continues to play every week.

Click here for a list of events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.