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Hillsboro to host first Ethiopian Cultural Festival
Emebet Alemu says she'll drink American coffee, but her mother won't.
In Addis Ababa and now Beaverton, tradition requires coffee beans roasted and ground at home. The brew is served in small handle-free cups and sipped sitting on the floor in a succession of three: abol, tona and baraka.
An Ethiopian coffee ceremony, along with Ethiopian food, music, language and dance, will be on display at the first Ethiopian Cultural Festival in Hillsboro, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 5.
"The coffee ceremony just defines Ethiopia. It's a process. It's how you talk and spend time together. You don't rush. You sit there and enjoy the coffee and enjoy talking to each other," said Alemu, who is organizing the event sponsored by the City of Hillsboro. "My aim is to bring the Ethiopian community together but also take this opportunity to share our culture not only with Ethiopians but with anyone from different backgrounds."
Alemu moved to Beaverton in 2012.
According to 10-year-old data from the U.S. Census Bureau, people with Ethiopian ancestry in the United States more than doubled from 87,000 in 2000 to an estimated 195,000 by 2012.
While California and Washington, D.C., are considered the hubs of the diaspora, Alemu said Portland has a strong Ethiopian immigrant community revolving around a handful of churches where the New Year is celebrated each September.
Spanning high mountain ranges and plateaus in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is Africa's second-most populous country, with more than 117 million inhabitants — a little over one-third the population of the United States.
Alemu speaks Amharic, the national language. Within Ethiopia, though, there are around 100 languages spoken at home.
The festival will feature dances and music representing an array of regional cultures.
Alemu said the Ethiopian population in Washington County is growing. Even still, it's hard to find an Ethiopian restaurant in the suburbs — a problem she hopes to fix one day.
"There was nothing here in this area. People know Ethiopian food, but they need to go to Portland. That's why I always dreamed of having a restaurant in this area," Alemu said. "We have a very rich history and culture."
The Ethiopian Cultural Festival will be held at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St. in Hillsboro. There is no charge for admission.
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