Marisa Peryer, Senior Photographer

On Tuesday afternoon, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History concluded its 18th annual ¡Fiesta Latina! This year’s monthlong event, which took place through the Hispanic Heritage Month, was “a festival of digital experiences.”

The Peabody worked alongside co-presenter Junta for Progressive Action — a New Haven organization that supports the Latinx community — in partnership with the New Haven Free Public Library, Yale Latino Networking Group and Yale School of the Environment to host the event. This year, the Fiesta Latina’s events comprised live YouTube videos and watch parties.

Mariana Di Giacomo, natural history conservator and “Queen of Specimen Selfies,” hosted three events about natural history conservation, bird taxidermy and bones.

“The reason why I wanted to participate in this year’s ¡Fiesta Latina! is because last year when I came to the museum for the event, I saw the excitement and enthusiasm of the Latinx community,” Di Giacomo said. “It was wonderful to see such a vibrant Latinx community in New Haven that was also so highly engaged with the exhibits and collections.”

Di Giacomo was invited to film three videos in Spanish about her conservation work. She said the “highlight of the experience” was receiving questions on social media about her work and the Peabody’s collections. She found it “meaningful and intimate” to engage with people in their own language.

Due to the pandemic, the Peabody made all programming digital this year. However, since the museum was closed for renovations, Peabody staff was already reimagining the celebration in virtual format. Staff and event partners began preparing for a virtual fiesta over the summer. In previous years, the fiesta included live performances of contemporary Latin American music and dance, crafts and face painting.

The Peabody made the fiesta’s events accessible to a wide range of audiences. In one event, Jesse Delia, camps and public programs coordinator at the Peabody, teaches viewers how to make butterfly rings and bracelets out of construction paper. In another event, Ray Simpson, museum assistant in entomology, discusses the diversity of butterflies and moths in the neotropics. These videos were made to celebrate traditional and contemporary Latin American culture, according to the Peabody’s website.

In an email to the News, Delia and Christopher Renton, associate director of marketing and communications, discussed the organizers’ motivations for hosting the event.

“Historically, we’ve co-presented ¡Fiesta Latina! with Junta for Progressive Action on a single day in October,” Delia and Renton said. “When the pandemic hit and made public gatherings unsafe, staff and our community partners embraced the idea of a virtual ¡Fiesta Latina! that could span all of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month.”

They said it was exciting for the Peabody and its co-organizers to offer free, bilingual programming to anyone with an internet connection. Before this year, all programming was only accessible “if you came through the Peabody’s doors.”

But this year, the Peabody and its event partners created a monthlong series of events that are “interactive, shareable and re-watchable.” They partnered with local artists and scholars — some of whom have participated in the fiesta in the past 18 years — to create educational content.

So far, the event organizers have received positive feedback from the community. Delia and Renton said they were “incredibly proud” to partner with co-presenter Junta.

The Peabody Museum will be releasing videos through the Yale University YouTube channel on the ¡Fiesta Latina! playlist.

The fiesta has been sponsored by the Avangrid Foundation for the past three years.

Alex Ori | alex.ori@yale.edu 

Larissa Jimenez | larissa.jimenez@yale.edu