Annual cultural celebration features music, food, dancing and more
“Every year is exciting,” Elsa Galarza said, referring to the annual Festival Latino.
As the entertainment coordinator for the 26th annual festival, she is understandably enthusiastic about the schedule of music, dancing, food and more.
Part of the “more” is impersonator Eddy Fuentes who performs with the band Mariachi Jalisco.
“He impersonates famous singers like Juan Gabriel,” Galarza said.
Fuentes is coming from Puerto Rico for the event. Other performers are also arriving from overseas. Grupo Niche from Columbia will play their famous salsa music. “They have been around for 30 years and have a lot of hits,” Galarza said.
Los Astros de America is based in Baton Rouge, but their music spans the globe. They play salsa, punta and merengue.
Merengue began in the Dominican Republic and is popular all over Latin America. Punta is a style of music that originated in Honduras. Salsa has its origins in Cuba, but is now also common in South America, Central America and Cuba, Galarza said.
“We play every kind of music,” said Los Astros de America lead singer Juan Prudencia. “We’re really ready for the festival. We make people happy everywhere we go.”
The six-member band usually plays its dance-ready tunes in Baton Rouge, but sometimes travels to Houston. The band will also perform at the Latin Music Festival in Lafayette on Saturday, Oct. 6.
More dance music will be provided by DJ Santos and, for those who prefer to watch, Southern University Spanish professor Irma Farfan-Cobb will demonstrate Mexican dances.
“I am trying to pass on the tradition. I perform at the festival every year,” Cobb said.
The dances she performs, la Negra and el Jarabe Tapatio (also known as the Hat Dance), are always accompanied by a mariachi band.
“Mariachi music is happy music. Even people who don’t know how to dance will feel their feet tapping,” Cobb said.
Mariachi music and the dances originated in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and are great sources of national pride, she said.
Cobb has six traditional dresses that she bought in Mexico City. The dances are so common and popular that the required outfits can be purchased in almost any general store.
“They have to be colorful,” she said.
Besides dance, the festival is a great way for people to experience authentic culture from around the world, Cobb said.
“I go back to Mexico City and eat and eat. The food at the festival provides the real thing without any Tex Mex,” she said.
Food from 11 different countries, including El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Nicaragua, will be available.
For children, there will be a train ride, face painting, a bouncing house and crafts.
Proceeds from the Latin Festival benefit the Hispanic Apostolate Ministries and the different programs it offers such English as a Second Language, religious education, emergency cash assistance, marriage counseling, immigration services, and youth activities.
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