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Cultures intertwine at Indian festival

KRISTIAN HERNANDEZ | STAFF WRITER

McALLEN — More than 300 people attended the Enchanting India Festival on Sunday as part of the International Museum of Arts and Science’s cultural series aimed at educating and highlighting the different traditions found in the Rio Grande Valley.

Those who attended the festival enjoyed traditional dancing, art, food and other cultural activities from the South Asian country.

“The Indian culture is one of the oldest cultures in the world,” said Hari Namboodiri, president of the India Association of the Rio Grande Valley. “This is a great way for us to showcase the colors, smells and sounds of our beautiful heritage.”

Namboodiri said they’ve always done festivals like this but this is the second year they teamed up with IMAS to open it up to a larger audience. The association began with about 12 families of Indian descent in the early 1990s and now has more than 700 families from Laredo to Brownsville.

At the event, Uma Puri, of Edinburg, welcomed women and girls of all ages to try on the customary saree, a 5-meter-long cloth that is wrapped around the body to form a dress.

A saree can cost anywhere from $150 to $2,000 depending on the thread and jewels used to adorn the dress. Next to the sarees, men could try on a traditional turban hat worn by men in India and throughout the Middle East.

Samantha Carrizal, 17, and her mother Diana Gonzalez, 47, both stood in line to have their picture taken wearing elaborate silk sarees. They trace their roots to the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi but said they love attending events hosted by the Indian society and drawing those connections between both cultures.

“Here you get to really experience the culture and realize that the food is similar to ours and the family values are much like ours,” said Gonzalez, a nurse from Pharr. “We have been attending their events for years and they are very receptive of our culture, it is really nice to see that.”

South Padre Island Mayor Bharat “Barry” Patel, the first Indian mayor in Texas after being elected in November, also attended the event.

“I feel like this is a time where there is a fusion of the cultures in the Rio Grande Valley,” Patel said. “We are seeing people from all over the world actually, but many families are from India.”