AARP Eye Center
San Antonio’s beloved “Celebrando con AARP” was back in-person. The 9th annual event was held at Traders Village on October 2 in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The community came out strong, with more than 14,000 people getting together for a fun-filled day of dancing to live music from local Tejano bands and hearing what AARP Texas has to offer them and their families.
“Celebrando con AARP” is one of San Antonio’s signature events, many in the area look forward to attending. In 2020 and 2021, the event went virtual due to the pandemic. 2022 welcomed everyone back with what the Director of Community Strategy for AARP Texas in San Antonio, Lisa A. Rodriguez, called “puro cultura!”
According to Rodriguez, the original idea behind Celebrando was to help residents associate AARP as the “thread of the community” and their interest in the Hispanic/Latino community.
“For AARP, San Antonio became what they call an Enterprise Community Pilot (ECP),” Rodriguez said. “The organization was really trying to figure out how to go local and how to be effective. [This meant] working with the community, regardless of ethnicity, and ensuring they knew AARP existed for them.”
According to Rodriguez, with San Antonio being more than 60 percent Latino, the focus was what AARP could learn about working with the Hispanic community, particularly the Mexican American community, and the issues important to them. With the help of data and focus groups, “Celebrando con AARP” became a way to raise awareness and help residents live their best life.
“In order to build awareness, we needed to find a way to position ourselves, and we used this event to do just that,” said Rodriguez.
The result was a resource fair offering information about AARP’s age-friendly community platform, partnering with other nonprofits and governmental agencies to provide information to members while also celebrating the culture of the community, which is why it’s held during Hispanic Heritage Month. “That’s not to say, and we’re very clear to say, we work with the Latino community and everybody throughout the year,” Rodriguez said.
“Celebrando con AARP” began as a “fun with a purpose” event, Rodriguez adds, providing information on housing, health, transportation, caregiving, and voter registration, to name a few. Even the music used is curated to San Antonio. Live performances this year included music from Chente Barrera Y Taconazo, the David Farias Band, and the South Texas Homies.
Long-time volunteer Julia Castellano-Hoyt describes her experience with Celebrando as a “joyous interaction of social agencies (led by AARP) that introduces area residents to the intersection of social and informative activities and awareness of the scope of all that AARP does for the senior community.”
Castellano-Hoyt has been a volunteer with AARP for more than 20 years and a volunteer of “Celebrando con AARP” since 2018 alongside her husband, Donald Castellano-Hoyt. She credits AARP with successfully introducing the programs and services they offer by placing the event in a predominantly Hispanic area of the city in a venue well-known to the community.
Castellano-Hoyt noted how AARP has partnered with various agencies, such as the City Health Department and UT Health Department, to provide literature on social and medical resources available to the community during the event. She also shared how “Celebrando con AARP” has evolved over the years by providing an “onsite electronic registration system” that improves the accuracy in tallying the number of attendees.
It’s clear from Rodriguez and the pride echoing through her voice as she describes “Celebrando con AARP” that it’s so much more than just a resource fair. “It is a social opportunity, and more importantly, getting out of the pandemic, that’s what you saw in people’s faces, the excitement of just being out!”
2023 will be a big year for “Celebrando con AARP” as the organization celebrates its 10th anniversary with a few exciting surprises in the works to expand on the success of what Rodriguez called a “well-oiled machine.”
AARP Texas provides a wide variety of opportunities across the state communities to come together throughout the year with festivals, special events, like Celebrando con AARP, and educational classes, to name a few.
This year, AARP was excited to launch their 2022 bilingual Hispanic Heritage campaign titled “¡Tejidos y Unidos! AARP used this campaign to connect with communities across the country and celebrate the accomplishments, contributions, and culture of the Hispanic/Latino community during the month-long celebration and year-round.
AARP recognizes that now is the time to continue building on the success of events like Celebrando. Over the next 20 years, the U.S. Hispanic/Latino population of 50 and over will double from 13 million to 25 million. Currently, 2.1 million Latinos are AARP members. AARP is at the forefront of making a difference through its social impact to “empower people to choose how they live as they age.”
For more information on what AARP is doing virtually and in-person in San Antonio or details on becoming a volunteer, go to aarp.org/San Antonio.
Story by: Sonia Ramirez, AARP Texas Volunteer