Over 500 years ago, explorers set sail from Spain to find riches and land. Although their journey was long, they finally discovered an unmapped land mass. This land became known as America.
The National Cultural Heritage Tourism Center and Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce are partnering to host the Estevanico International Festival at Plaza de Luna on April 20 and 21.
According a press release, the festival will celebrate the cultural diversity of the Gulf Coast region and the life, legacy and cultures of an explorer named Estevanico.
Estevanico was the first person from Africa known to have set foot on what is now United States soil when he arrived in Florida in April, 1528, as part of a Spanish expedition.
Estevanico later helped guide Fray Marcos de Niza’s quest to find the Seven Cities of Gold.
According the press release, the Estevanico International Festival will recognize Estevanico’s and Spain’s exploits, as well as their historical influence on the cultures of the Gulf Coast.
“America’s culture is a gumbo of a variety of cultures,” said Gene Franklin, director of the National Cultural Heritage Tourism Center in an email. “The National Cultural Heritage Tourism Center chose to promote Estevanico as a symbol of Africa to give our culture a face for economic unity and to create cultural heritage tourism events across the Gulf Coast to hopefully connect the cultures of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to create a sense of national pride and cultural connectivity.”
Poet and author Ty Gray-El will be presenting work at the festival, and gospel singer Kebra Moore will sing. Moore’s song “He’ll Make A Way” was featured on the soundtrack for the documentary about President Barack Obama, “Becoming Barack: Evolution of a Leader.”
At 2 p.m. Saturday, the New Orleans brass band “Kinfolks” will be performing.
“The Florida Black Chamber’s focus is cultural economics,” Franklin said. “Cultural economics is a principle based on the belief that your culture and heritage is the root of a community’s wealth.
“Culture is normally packaged under the umbrella of a nationality.”
The festival organizers have estimated between 500 and 1,000 people will attend.
“As long as the weather permits, and the stars align,” said Kathy Melson, one of the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce event coordinators. “It should be exciting to see all of the different arts and crafts that are being featured. Seeing the diversity of different cultures come together will be exciting too.”
The Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce is hoping to expand their membership into the Pensacola area. The Estevanico Festival will be one of their first events in the Pensacola area to draw in the crowd.
“Estevanico is the symbol for all of us, [...] of our forgotten communities and villages,” Franklin said.
The Estevanico Festival will be held in Plaza de Luna from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 20, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 21.