Last year, Half Moon Bay's Spanish-speaking community welcomed fellow Coastsiders for a heartfelt celebration of the Virgen of Guadelupe, a figure very precious to the community's faithful.

That celebration, held at Half Moon Bay's Bell Building with food and festivity, will be followed up this year with another celebration for the Coastside community, also focused on something precious: "El Dia de los Ninos," or the Day of the Children, set from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.

Children, and the local Spanish-speaking community itself, will be celebrated at this festive event, to be held at the Moonridge housing development community center at 2001 Miramontes Point Road in Half Moon Bay.

Laura Castaneda of El Granada, who coordinated the event with Belinda Arriaga and Lorena Ferdows, said she wanted the event to not only celebrate children but counteract what she saw as occasional negative images.

"You hear propaganda about gangs," she said. "I wanted to shed a positive light on the community."

Last year's event, which filled the Bell Building with families, food, fellowship and lively music, focused on the Virgen of Guadelupe, a vision of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, the vision appeared to Juan Diego, a simple indigenous peasant, in December 1591 on a desert hill near what is now Mexico City.

This year's event, hosted by the Moonridge community, is made possible through Los Cenzontles, an East Bay-based Mexican cultural center that does outreach to Hispanic migrant communities under the auspices of migrant education.

"Moonridge fits that perfectly," said Castaneda.

The community will take part in festivities that will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday. A welcome will be followed by instructions for a panel of five workshops to be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and repeated from 2 to 3 p.m. They include a cultural celebration and music with art, pinatas, a demonstration of the instruments used in mariachi music, traditional dance and a storytime for kids from infancy to 5, in which intermediate and high school, and adult readers, will assist.

A meal will be available at 3:15 p.m., followed by history and mariachi music presented by Los Cenzontles.

The event is being organized by committees from Moonridge, Main Street Housing and Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church in Half Moon Bay.

This event has special significance for Castaneda, who works in community development by pinpointing community needs and linking agencies to meet them. Los Cenzontles asked her to organize this event.

"Most of my attention is on migrant communities because they're a people who don't have a voice," she said.

A focus on children resonates throughout all participants, she added. "We embrace all children in our heart."

This event is free and open to the public. It is supported by donations from the community of food, and of four bikes donated for raffle by the San Mateo County Sheriff.

For information, contact Castaneda at (707) 330-4151.

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