One of the major events taking place in the Rio Grande Valley in the first quarter half of the year is the 2019 CreARTE Expo, a Latino Cultural & Comics Festival. The week of events started this past Sunday, and will continue until March 31. We talked to Larry Rattner, an organizer for the festival, in the weeks leading up to the series of events, to get his perspective on the CreARTE Expo.

Neta: Was the first festival the one that took place last year at the beginning of 2018? What made you and organizers want to launch this festival?

Larry Rattner: The first festival took place the first weekend in Feb 2018. I distribute documentaries about social justice. Whenever possible, I try to arrange public screenings with filmmakers, so people can discuss important issues with the filmmaker. This is a more elaborate version of those events. Our goal is to engage, educate, entertain and inspire. The Expo is also great because it helps bring the community together.

Neta: What made expo organizers want to have this festival both in Brownsville and Matamoros?

Larry Rattner: The Expo celebrates Latino Culture, so how could we not also be in Matamoros. There is so much talk about building walls and exclusion. The Expo is about inclusion. Both Brownsville and Matamoros have a great community of artists. By artists, I mean all genres – writers, dancers, musicians, etc. We want to promote and support the artists and the organizations that promote them.

Neta: What is something that will be different this year than the previous year?

Larry Rattner: Much is different. Last year our focus was almost exclusively focused on comics, cosplay and film. This year we’re adding Ballet Nepantla and the music festival. We have more workshops. We’re also trying to explore important issues that affect all of us. We’re screening a documentary about the history of women’s right to vote in Mexico. There will be a discussion with activist Eufrosina Cruz. Last year, adults had to pay to attend the Expo. This year almost all of the events are free to the public.

Neta: One of the biggest acts of the week will be Ballet Nepantla, what led y’all to want to feature them during the expo?

Larry Rattner: They’re a great dance company, and the director is from the Valley. They’re unique and extremely talented. Their merging of contemporary dance with Mexican folklorico make them the perfect dance company to bring to the festival. I believe they will inspire all of us.

Neta: Can you let attendees know what to expect from the 2nd Annual CreArte Expo Latino Short Film Awards?

Larry Rattner: We want to encourage, support and honor emerging Latino Filmmakers and films that have Latino themes – with a special emphasis on filmmakers from the Valley and from Tamaulipas. We want to honor filmmakers whose work exemplifies originality, diversity and creativity. Films are coming from all over the world. So far, over 1,500 films have been submitted to us. We’re going to select the best films and present them at the awards which are being held in Matamoros at the Teatro de la Reforma and Brownsville at the Amigoland Convention Center. We’re also using the festival to honor the career of Joaquin Cosio.

Neta: Where can people find more information on the workshops y’all are having?

Larry Rattner: Visit for more information on all our events. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’re still adding events and guests. This year, we’re having workshops at the Brownsville Public Library Main Branch that everyone is invited to. There will also be additional workshops and panels over the weekend at the Carlotta K. Petrina Cultural Center and in Matamoros on March 28 and 29. The entire community is invited to all our events. We hope everyone come.