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Two women hold their skirts up to the side, standing next to living history performers in 1700s military uniform
Unidos En La Música attendees in decorative dresses from Panama, posing with park 1740s living history soldiers
NPS Photo
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Celebrating Latino Culture at Florida’s National Monuments

Latino Outreach at Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments
By Alison Steinbach

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida interprets more than 450 years of cultural intersections by preserving one of the country’s oldest stone fortifications – and the site continues to invite people to explore its history and connect with each other.

Thanks to support from the National Park Foundation’s (NPF) Latino Heritage Fund, the park was able to engage and connect more Latino youth and families to the historic and cultural site and to the National Park Service (NPS) by hosting a movie night and participating in a large Latino community event in May 2022.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument hosted a widely popular movie night on the park lawn and participated in Unidos En La Música (united in music), a community event held near the park, in partnership with nearby Fort Matanzas National Monument.

Unidos En La Música
Illustration for Unidos En La Música (NPS Photo)

Combined, the events enabled the park to reach more than 2,500 people – many of whom were first-time visitors, and most of whom were Hispanic or Latino – including about 1,000 kids who were sworn in as Junior Rangers and over a dozen high school student volunteers. Ultimately, the park introduced new audiences to the NPS sites and increased engagement with the local Latino community.

The movie night brought together community members to watch the Disney movie “Encanto” on site at the fort. The family-friendly event provided visitors with information about local heritage and the national park system and offered lawn games and educational activities. The event included local law enforcement officials and park rangers as a way to build community and camaraderie.

Two people sit at a table under a tent, they smile at the camera
Student volunteers at Unidos En La Música (NPS Photo)
Two people pose for a photo next to a living history solider and a historic cannon
Unidos En La Música attendees with 1740s living history soldier (NPS Photo)

The grant also enabled the NPS sites to help sponsor and participate for the first time in a large community festival, Unidos En La Música, which featured a full day of live music, dancing, games, and dozens of vendors and food trucks offering Latin American food and crafts. NPS had the opportunity to be present at the local celebration of Latino culture in the hope of connecting Latino audiences to NPS and the sites and stories it preserves. Kids of all ages enjoyed Junior Ranger activities created by the park, and attendees engaged with first responders and interpretive activities as part of the park’s participation in the broader festival.

Through the events, park rangers from Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments and volunteers provided guests with information about the local NPS sites and Hispanic history and culture in St. Augustine, which was established by Spain in 1565, with the forts built to defend Florida and protect the Atlantic trade route.

NPF funding supported equipment and licensing for the movie night, a welcome video, clips of a Spanish-speaking park ranger, Junior Ranger materials, and decorative t-shirts for student volunteers. The NPS sites also partnered with local community service organizations, schools, and law enforcement agencies to support participation in the events.

Park staff found that some attendees were learning for the first time that Castillo and Fort Matanzas are in fact national park sites. Many of the guests only thought of parks as out West like Yellowstone, rather than monuments within cities. Moments like that gave park staff opportunities to engage with people about the importance of NPS and NPF protecting historic and cultural sites.

Learn more about NPF’s Latino Heritage Fund and how it supports NPF’s broader History & Culture area of work aimed at sharing inclusive perspectives to gain insight into the past and America today.

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