Hemisfair’s 50th anniversary celebrates diversity in San Antonio


In accordance with its upcoming 50th anniversary, Hemisfair is throwing an extravagant event called ¡Viva Hemisfair! from April 6–8. The event is supposed to emulate the 1968 World’s Fair and celebrate the food, music and culture of San Antonio’s diverse population.

“We’ve decided to take the concept of the World’s Fair and turn it inside out. If you think about a World’s Fair, a World’s Fair is about people from all over the world coming to San Antonio and kinda showing how they live,” said Drew Hicks, Hemisfair communications manager. “What we wanted to do was take this 50-year anniversary as an opportunity to show the world the diversity of San Antonio, and really show our culture. To do that we have divided it up into a series of cultural zones that each feature music and performance — and of course food, because this is San Antonio.”

Visitors can expect to find zones with local San Antonio residents representing a wide variety of foreign cultures from far-off locations, like Pasha Mediterranean Grill serving food from the Middle East and Mediterranean conglomerate, and groups with older history in San Antonio, like the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM).

AITSCM actually has a history with the Hemisfair Park. The park has worked with them since the park’s recent renovations in 2015 and gave Hemisfair’s Yanaguana Garden its name. AITSCM will be performing traditional dances of their culture and sharing stories of their ancient myths.

Trinity’s own Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) will also be representing Vietnamese culture at the fair.

“We are going to be hosting a booth throughout the festival, and our booth is going to be selling Vietnamese banh mi, cakes and cha gio egg rolls that we will be cooking and preparing at the station,” said Alexander Motter, president of VSA.

The club will also be performing a dragon dance around the fair that they had prepared for the Lunar New Year Festival. Several students from VSA are also bringing games from their childhoods.

“One of the games, its called bau cua ca cop, so basically there are like six animals and basically you bet on which animal you think will win. It’s like gambling except you bet with fake money,” said Sushii Uyen Phuong Dong, first-year student and VSA member. “That’s the [game] that I’m bringing to [Hemisfair].”

Due to the club’s student status they were given a stipend by Hemisfair in order to prepare for the festival. The club felt that since they were being aided in contributing to this experience, they should donate all the proceeds to a Vietnamese charity.

“We figured that since we’re being given the proceeds to help put this on, it would just be unfair for us to keep all the profits, so we’re donating it to this really poor organization called Blue Dragon. What they do is they help at risk Vietnamese youth who are victims of either sex trafficking or homelessness, which are really big problems in Vietnam,” Motter said.

¡Viva Hemisfair!’s main goal to demonstrate the cultural diversity of San Antonio.

“The core concept is not representing these cultures as the others, or as something foreign, but to really take this opportunity to say these are our neighbors,” Hicks said.

Though Hemisfair is not directly responding to any political climate, it does claim to be tapping into a growing motion of camaraderie and celebration of diversity that is in San Antonio, and that parallels the 1968 World’s Fair.

Hemisfair’s team has been researching the 1968 World’s Fair for over a year now, collaborating with neighbors such as Instituto Cultural de Mexico and The Texas Institute of Cultures. In an attempt to recall 1968, ¡Viva Hemisfair! will be displaying photos and video from Hemisfair ’68 and holding a tour of houses in San Antonio since the 1960s.

The park is also using ¡Viva Hemisfair! as a chance to celebrate the park’s recent construction project successes, like the creation of Yanaguana Garden. Since the park’s new renovations in 2015, Hemisfair has become the second most visited park in Texas.

“It’s about capturing this incredible momentum today that is forward facing. Redevelopment in Hemisfair has been astronomical. And this is really a celebration of that success and push towards our future,” Hicks said.

¡Viva Hemisfair! is hoping to use the celebration to demonstrate their success to the city and to rally support for future renovations.

“The message we want to communicate to the people is that it’s not done. There’s so much more left to do, and just like Hemisfair ’68 it requires the whole city coming together and making it happen. We are definitely looking to engage people about that redevelopment story,” Hicks said.

Through lots of time spent preparing and the collaboration of hundreds of San Antonio citizens, ¡Viva Hemisfair! is looking to bring a truly unique celebration of both international unity and local diversity. The synthesis of music, art and history will not be something to miss.