Written by Eli Roberts // Photo by Madison Meyer
El Puente is a faith-oriented, nonprofit organization assisting and providing help to Spanish speakers through various services to improve the quality of life and to help them better adapt to the Searcy community.
El Puente’s goal is to bridge the gap between Spanish and English speakers in the community. The name “El Puente” translates to “The Bridge.”
The organization was founded three years ago by Jay and Ruth Simpson with a desire to serve the Spanish-speaking community.
Sept.15 to Oct. 15 was National Hispanic Heritage Month, and El Puente wanted to be involved. The organization hosted a special dinner to acknowledge the culture, history, food and arts of Hispanic people.
El Puente’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration dinner occurred on Oct. 13, and it was a huge success.
Executive director of El Puente Ruth Simpson had high hopes for the dinner, and the turnout exceeded her expectations.
“[The dinner] turned out fabulous,” Simpson said. “There was an attendance of around 200 people that came. Much better than what we could have ever expected.”
Simpson said the organization went into the dinner with two goals in mind.
“Our main goal was to bring together our cultures so that our clients could come and celebrate, as well as people that want to come and support El Puente,” Simpson said. “To have both cultures under one roof was really cool. Then our other goal was a fundraising dinner, so we can continue to serve and take the next steps needed.”
The dinner provided a variety of dishes that were served and prepared by Hispanic peoples. Picadillo, rice and beans, pupusas, chips and salsas and horchatas were the dishes that were served. Various desserts amounted to more than 15 different Hispanic sweets for dinner guests.
All of the food prepared for El Puente’s celebration dinner was local. The food was cooked by clients and volunteers, El Nopal, Mi Ranchito, Mi Pueblo and local Hispanic community members, making the dishes authentic.
Along with the dinner, there was a demonstration of traditional Hispanic arts.
Harding University Walton Scholars came to the celebration dinner, and eight students performed different dances. Two other students played the guitar and sang, and Hispanic cultural art pieces were put on display.
The event also featured a volunteer who came to do a live painting that was auctioned off at the end of the dinner, and a fruit carver performed his talents as well.
Junior Nikole Alvarado performed at El Puente’s dinner and showed off her dance skills that she has been learning since she was six years old.
“I love to dance,” Alvarado said. “It’s a big part of my life, and I think it’s something that you should share. When I was offered to do it I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go, it’s gonna be awesome.’”
Alvarado wasn’t aware of the dinner until her friend told her they wanted to do something different for the National Hispanic Heritage Month dinner. When she heard the event involved dancing, she was all in to help.
“This can help show Americans what we do a little bit better,” Alvarado said. “To help the Latino community remember why they are so amazing at dancing.”