Americas Latino Festival debuts this weekend in Denver and Boulder

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It's not every weekend that a handful of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize-winners and international artists converge on the area. But this weekend the Americas for Conservation and the Arts will present the inaugural Americas Latino Festival of Colorado, a green event celebrating the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority population and presenting a whirlwind of activities today through Sunday, most of them free. See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Michael Chavez

Latinos are projected to make up 30 percent of the country's population by 205; however, they remain mostly ignored by green marketing campaigns, according to Irene Vilar, director of the Americas for Conservation and the Arts. Most Latino-themed festivals "revolve around tortillas and culture and music, which is great," she says. "This festival attempts to unite diverse communities around the sustainable future concept, and place Latinos in the leadership role of hosting those diverse communities."

Vilar was born in Puerto Rico but moved to Boulder eight years ago after she married her husband, who lived here. An accomplished writer, she's been involved in publishing for many years, and that work has connected her to many accomplished Latinos in the arts field. Many of those connections are coming to support this one-of-a-kind festival.

Among the 75 speakers who will be presenting at the festival are Pulitzer Prize-winners Junot Diaz and Sonia Nazario. Documentary films will be another huge part of the festival, with 35 screenings, including South of the Border by Oliver Stone; Duncan Bridgeman will lead a discussion after his film, Hecho en Mexico.

Hands-on workshops will be offered with professional artists from around the world, with many discussions focusing on art. Music and comedy will also be presented, and Sunday is Family Day.

The festival is for everyone, Vilar says, not just Latinos. "It's the concept of Latino communities and culture as hosts," she explains. "Basically, we're coming together around environmental issues that concern us all, and there are no differences between us when we talk about the environment. Our children breathe the same air and drink the same water."

Americas Latino Festival of Colorado runs November 16 through November 18 in Denver and Boulder. The McNichols Building building in Denver's Civic Center and the Boulder Public Library Canyon Theater will host many of the events. For a full schedule, go to americanlatinofestival.org/events. Most events are free, but some require tickets, which run $10 to $15.

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