South and Central American culture was on full display in Sherman Saturday as the city celebrated the Hispanic Heritage Festival. For the past 22 years, the annual event has brought a taste of Hispanic food, music and dance to North Texas.

Organizers held the event on Saturday to coincide with Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16 and the anniversary of the Act of Independence of Central America on Sept. 15. The plan effectively declared the countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua free of Spain’s rule.

“We are basically celebrating Mexican and Central American culture and their independence,” said Henry Marroquin, vice president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Texoma.

The event featured a variety of vendors featuring food from Central American countries and Mexico alongside performers, Mariachi bands and other entertainment. Funds raised through the event will be used for scholarships for Hispanic high school students in the area, Marroquin said.

Through the event, Marroquin said he hoped to bring more awareness to not just Mexican culture but of all Hispanic cultures. Through this, he hoped to break down the barriers between the various groups that call both Sherman and North Texas home.

“I just feel like we need to get our Hispanic culture out there and let people know more about what our culture means,” he said.

The festival comes in a time where cultural identity is shifting, particularly with younger generations, Marroquin said. While national identity and heritage still remains to some degree, he believes it is evolving into a greater Hispanic culture and identity.

“They (youth) don’t have a wall between cultures,” Marroquin said. “To them it isn’t that they are Mexican — they are Latino.”

City leadership, including Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores and Mayor David Plyler, attended the event and both spoke about the importance of bridging gaps and building stronger relationships throughout the community.

“We are really lucky to call Sherman home because of all the diversity we have,” Plyler.

Flores spoke in both Spanish and English about plans within the department to start new initiatives aimed at engaging the Hispanic community. Among the initiatives will be increased outreach and dialogue between the community and police regarding its needs.

Plyler said he felt events like the heritage festival provide the city a chance to learn about cultures and groups outside their own and these opportunities can be the key to breaking down barriers.

“This, much like Juneteeth, brings a great opportunity to learn about another culture,” he said.