Food stalls, games and tables with a little bit of everything for sale spilled from the parish hall onto the front lawn at the Church of the Annunciation on Massachusetts Avenue as the Centro Catolico Hispano (Spanish Catholic Center) held its first fund-raising "Latin Bazaar" Saturday.
"The (Spanish) Catholic Center has held small fund-raisers before," explained the Rev. Sean O'Malley, a member of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscans who is the center's director, "but we've never attempted anything this large."
The center, which has its main office at 3055 Mount Pleasant st. NW and a branch in Silver Spring, planned the day-long event to raise part of its one-third share of the center's annual $300,000 budget. (Another third is provided by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington and the remainder by United Way.)
"We organized a great many activities aimed at helping local Hispanos," said Father Sean, as the center's director is known to members of the Hispanic community, "including a union for domestic workers and a school with over 1,000 students learning everything from English as a second language to how to become a bilingual secretary."
The loudspeaker system at the Church of the Annunciation, lent for the occasion to the center, provided nonstop Latin rhythms, while volunteers staffing the busiest stalls took care of the day's main attractions: rice and black beans, tamales, tacos and other Latin American dishes.
"You can't imagine how hard we have worked or how many people have been involved," said Rosa Gomez, a Salvadoran who served on the publicity committee and also lent a hand in the kitchen.
Plates and cups in hand, visitors walked back and forth between tables savoring the food, chatting with friends and examining the plants, books, ornaments and other items donated for sale.
"You've brought me luck," a visitor was told by Ramon Gomez, a Mexican-American from Arizona who served as chairman of the fund-raising committee and manned one of the sale tables. "I sold the picture of the gaucho and the girl from (Argentina) right after you came by."
The several hundred visitors who wandered in and out were drawn primarily from the Hispanic community, but many non-Hispanos attended as well. One woman said she regularly attended "every church bazaar I hear about."
Visitors settled down after lunch when the center's youth group -- led by 24-year-old Javier Garceta who six years ago came to the United States from Paraguay -- presented a program of entertainment including Latin American folk songs and dances, original poems and a short dance-drama.
The bazaar's relaxed quality allowed visitors to do exactly what each one felt like -- except for one 3-year-old who reacted angrily to the call for quiet over the loudspeaker by turning to the nearest woman to announce: "I will not sit down and be quiet, and I want a balloon!"