LAWRENCE — The theme for this year's Hispanic Week festival is "Recapturing Our Roots"
At the VIP luncheon yesterday, keynote speaker Lawrence attorney Wendy Estrella urged attendees to do just that.
"Without the past, there is no future," said Estrella, who moved to Lawrence at age 13. "Recapturing our roots should be the mission of each one of us, because it reaffirms our identity."
She also stressed the need to learn English and become educated.
"We should work with honesty and responsibility," said Estrella, a 1990 graduate of Lawrence High. She has an associate degree in business administration from Northern Essex Community College, a bachelor's degree in business management from Merrimack College, and a law degree from Massachusetts School of Law.
The luncheon at Chester's kicked off the 34th annual Hispanic Week, which showcases the cultures of Colombia, Haiti, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, through music, dancing, food and traditional costumes. The festival culminates with a carnival and parade the weekend of June 15-17.
"We are celebrating our Hispanic heritage in this city, a city blessed in diversity, where its motto, 'City of Immigrants' fits like a glove," said Sara Saldana, president of this year's festival.
Attending the luncheon was a list of who's who of the area leaders in business, politics, education and social services.
Mayor William Lantigua presented a proclamation from the City of Lawrence, while Rep. Marcos Devers, D-Lawrence gave a proclamation from the House of Representatives.City Council president Frank Moran publicly recognized Hispanic Week founder Isabel Melendez "for the initiative she took 34 years ago."
During the luncheon, Miss Hispanic Week 2012 Chanel Pena was introduced to the public as were parade marshals Rafael Abislaiman and Martina Cruz.
Pena, 20, of Methuen, is studying marketing at University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
Abislaiman is executive director of the Merrimack valley Workforce Investment Board and Cruz is a former member of the Lawrence School Committee.
In his invocation, the Rev. Joel Almono, pastor of Grace Episcopal Church, said it was hard find the right words for blessing an institution such as Hispanic Week.
"Hispanic Week is like the wind because it surrounds all the earth," Almono said.
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Hispanic Week events
Tonight: Colombian night, 7 to 10:30 p.m., Chester's, 60 Island St.
Haitian night: 5-8 p.m., Lawrence Heritage State Park, 1 Jackson St.
Tomorrow: Peruvian night, 5-9 p.m., Chester's, 60 Island St.
Monday: Mexican night, 6-9 p.m. Mi Mexico Lindo, 5 Pleasant St., Methuen.
Tuesday: Ecuadorian night, 6-9 p.m. Copa Lounge, 1 Mill St.
Wednesday: Dominican night, 6-11, location to be announced.
Thursday: Puerto Rican night, 6 to 10:30 p.m., Lawrence Senior Center 155 Haverhill St. featuring music by Harold Cruz.
June 15: Ceremonies begin at Campagnone Common, 6 to 11 p.m.
June 16 and 17: Campagnone Common, 2 to 11 p.m.