Fiesta de la Salud educates and entertains

By Claire Atwell

Staff Writer

the Durham VOICE

Over one thousand people in the Durham area attended El Centro Hispano’s 11th Annual Nuestra Fiesta de la Salud on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Hillside High School in Durham.

The Nuestra Fiesta de la Salud, or Our Health Fair, is held every year to provide health information, screenings and activities for the Hispanic community.  El Centro Hispano, a grassroots organization that promotes the strengthening of the Latino community, sponsored and organized the event.


“Spiderman” Angel Floris, 6, of Durham, watches EL Payaso, or a Mexican clown, make a balloon animal.  There were many activities available for children as well as adults at Nuestra Fiesta de la Salud.  (Photo by Claire Atwell)

“The idea is prevention and education for the community,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, executive director for El Centro Hispano.  “We want to educate the people about the resources available. “

Rocha-Goldberg said the Fiesta de la Salud aims to teach the Latinos of Durham to take care of themselves through blood tests and physical activities. The event hosted soccer, volleyball and track exercises, as well as races, games and face painting for children.

The fair hosted over 70 agencies, including the American Red Cross, Durham County Fire Department and the Durham Crisis Center. Several agencies also provided free health screenings, including screenings for blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, glucose, HIV and vision.

Dental exams and simple procedures were also offered free of charge.

There were over 100 volunteers at the event, which ran from noon to 5 p.m. John Redlin, 18, a freshman at North Carolina State University, volunteered as a translator between the dentists and patients in the dental van.

“When the dentist would say, ‘You are going to feel a little pressure” I would say, ‘Va a tener un poco dolar en la boca’ to the patient,” said Redlin.

Redlin said volunteering with El Centro Hispano, which he does frequently, is a great opportunity to give back to the community and practice Spanish. He is almost fluent.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 12% of Durham’s population is Hispanic. It has grown from 7.5% in 2000.

Rosa Grimaldos, an employee of Duke University Medical Center, went to the fair to find participants for a study with the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. The study involves pregnant Latina women with husbands who smoke cigarettes.

“We want to educate the people about the effects of secondhand smoke on pregnancy,” she said.  Grimaldos, originally from Colombia, was one of many bilingual workers in attendance.

The fair attracted Hispanic and non-Hispanic residents, alike. Nary Carthens, 65, of Henderson, brought her husband to get two teeth extracted.  Carthens said the worst part about the fair was the long lines.

“Anything you get for free, you have to be patient for,” she said.

Carthens said she took her husband to the ER a few weeks ago and he was told the teeth needed to be removed as soon as possible.

“It would have been $200 or $300 to get them pulled,” Carthens said.

Many of the people who attended Nuestra Fiesta de la Salud are without health care.

“I think this fair has brought people together and has also given many Hispanics opportunities that may not have been available previously,” Redlin said.