Iva Kubickova, Content Marketing Executive   05 November 2018

Women dancing in colourful dresses

Toronto is a city with one of the highest percentages of foreign-born citizens. There’s a Spanish-speaking community, but it’s not the largest one in the city. So there’s a real need to get the community together to empower each other. Unfortunately, in the past, there weren’t many opportunities to do so in Toronto.

This is where Fernando Valladares comes in. He arrived in Canada at the beginning of the 1970s to escape the political regime in Spain. But he felt isolated.

“The weather was cold, and people were cold, too. There was no communication as a community because there were so many immigrants from different countries.”

However, by the time the dictatorship in Spain collapsed, Fernando had decided to stay in Canada to build a platform that would unify the Spanish speaking community.




The origins of Hispanic Fiesta

In 1980, he became an executive assistant of a newly-elected city councillor Tony O’Donohue. Alongside O’Donohue, Valladares established a Las Flores charitable foundation to council newly arrived immigrants from Central and South America and Spain.

Send money from Canada

The foundation helped to raise money for numerous relief causes, such as the Mexican earthquake, Colombian mudslides and water projects in Latin America.

With Las Flores’ support, Valladares held the first festival celebrating Hispanic music, dance and art in Toronto and called it Hispanic Fiesta.

With twenty different countries participating, at first it seemed that the only unifying factor was the Spanish language. However, the community soon managed to prove otherwise.

Following the 37th anniversary of Hispanic Fiesta, we were delighted to interview the founder himself, Fernando Valladares.

We hope that you’ll enjoy his story.