Tulipanes Latino Art and Film Festival
By Erika Schlenker
The Tulipanes Latino Art and Film Festival was founded in 2000 by Deborah De La Torre, classical pianist and former Hope College professor. She wanted to fill the need in the Latino community for more cultural events. Since its debut in 2001, Tulipanes has attracted thousands of people from all cultures across the country. Visitors can expect an impressive helping of Latino music, art, film, literature, scholarly lectures, poetic and literary expression, television personalities, and opportunities for worship.
A Need for Cultural Celebration
With Hispanics accounting for over 23 percent of Holland’s population, it’s no surprise that community members began wishing to experience the culture in greater depth. Deborah De La Torre, classical pianist and former Hope College professor, expressed disappointment in the limited access to the works of Latino artists in the Holland community. In 2000, her passion for Latino art and culture moved her to speak with other community members about how they could share the culture with Holland. Thus came about the idea to bring a week’s worth of Hispanic-related events to Holland at no cost to the public. De La Torre said in the Holland Sentinel issued July 12, 2001:
The contributions of Latinos have blessed many people in many ways – not only in their role as a significant labor force, but especially in their work as artists. A festival highlighting the Hispanic legacy of artistic achievements is a wonderful way to celebrate Latino success.
Its Name & Mission
After months of planning and networking by Executive Director De La Torre and other volunteers, the festival turned into a reality. The name Tulipanes (Too-lee-PAHN-ess) nods to Holland’s favorite flower as it literally means “tulips” in Spanish. During its three-day debut in 2001, over 3,000 people immersed themselves in Latino music, art, film, and food through 50-plus events held throughout the city. Organizers considered the first festival a success, especially since it adhered to their main goal to promote cross-cultural understanding through the celebration of Spanish-speaking people.
Rare Films & Celebrity Guests
In the following years, Tulipanes grew in number of events, days, and attendees. Many visitors were drawn in by celebrity guests and the viewing of rare or award-winning films. In 2002, organizers accomplished the impossible feat of obtaining the rights to three rare films starring Cantinflas, a Mexican-born movie star formally known as Mario Moreno Reyes. The movies played for the first time in three decades at the Knickerbocker Theatre, which was also the first North American venue to show the films. In the same year, Vaneza Leza Pitynski from the popular Nickelodeon show The Brothers Garcia performed songs to an audience of children and tweens.
2003 brought more attention when actresses America Ferrera and Ingrid Oliu visited to promote their film Real Women Have Curves; film producer Kathryn Galan also made an appearance. In the next year, producer Steven Bauer and actor/director/writer Frank Aragon attended the festival. Their film My Father’s Love debuted for the first time in Holland and won Best in Show.
Tulipanes begins with a VIP gala where guests pay to brush shoulders with filmmakers and other festival higher-ups. All other events take place in and around downtown Holland. Latino music, art, film, literature, scholarly lectures, poetic and literary expression, television personalities, and opportunities for worship are all part of the celebration. Vendors from locally-owned restaurants prepare a variety of Mexican and Latin American cuisine: enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, tamales, beans, rice, and chips and salsa. Other events only come up every few years, like the “world’s largest piñata,” tap-dancing horses, and traditional folkdances of Mexico.
Tulipanes takes place annually in September, usually beginning the weekend after Labor Day. A paid team of organizers and hundreds of volunteers work to make the festival possible. Donations from major corporations and visitors are collected before and during the event so that the majority of the festival can be free to the public.