Sacramento is certainly well-saturated with Mexican culture, be it the abundance of taquerias or banda tunes blaring from trucks along Franklin Boulevard. But cuisine and arts from South America? That takes a little more digging around this city.
But fear not, those looking to explore the sounds and tastes from far south of the Rio Grande. The Latin American Festival Sacramento will be held on Saturday, July 9, at Cesar Chavez Plaza with foods and music that represent different facets of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Americas.
The festival will feature a pronounced Colombian flavor, in part because of the event’s proximity to Colombia’s July 20 Independence Day. There will be an array of Colombian foods for sale, and the musical portion of the festival will be headlined by Sonora Carruseles, a Medellin-based band that specializes in salsa music. The northern side of the country will be represented by Wilson Manyoma, a salsa singer from Cali, Colombia, whose recording career stretches over four decades including pivotal work with Fruko y sus Tesos.
But Colombia is just one stop on this Latin American festival excursion. The event includes samba dance performances from Mistura Brasileira and traditional Mexican dancing from Folklorico Aztlan de Sacramento. In all, the festival goes well beyond the taco – though there will be plenty of those, too – and showcases the diversity of the Latin Americans who call Sacramento home.
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“There are very strong Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian communities, much more than I thought,” said Miguel Castillo, a festival coordinator. “However, a lot of these groups don’t do too much outside their community, so that’s why it’s hard to hear about them.”
“In addition to what we’re all used to having, the tacos and burritos and all that, one of the key things was bringing in the flavors from South America and the islands,” Castillo added.
The Latin American Festival Sacramento is produced by JER Productions, a Bay Area company that’s also throwing a Colombian Independence Day celebration in San Jose on Sunday, July 10. The Sacramento festival shouldn’t be confused with the Northern California Latin American Festival, which was scheduled for fall 2015 in West Sacramento but canceled.
For Saturday’s event, the festival is the perfect destination for salsa dancers who want to shake it Colombia style. The Colombian approach to salsa is slightly different than the omnipresent Puerto Rican and Cuban variations, which are often highly choreographed and more regimented with their moves. Colombians take a more freestyle approach, less dependent on a male partner who leads, and doesn’t showcase much in the way of couples spinning and twirling.
For Colombian salsa dancing, it’s all about fast and fancy footwork. Dance instructors will be on hand to demonstrate the finer points of salsa steps.
Colombian salsa music also takes a more cumbia-based approach than its Puerto Rican and Cuban counterparts.
“Puerto Rican salsa has a lot of jazz influences, whereas the salsa from Colombia seems to be more energetic in the way they execute,” Castillo said. “The basics are the same, but they tend to add a few other drums that they don’t have in Puerto Rico. It’s a little different in the way they blend rhythms.”
Wallflowers will still have plenty to keep them occupied, especially if a hungry stomach is involved. Eleven food vendors will sell Latin American edibles, including tried-and-true tacos and Cuban dishes. For those who haven’t made a trip to Jimmy’s Peruvian Restaurant on Auburn Boulevard, or nabbed pan con chicharrón (a braised pork sandwich) from Sacramento’s El Ajicito food truck, Peruvian foods will also be available.
Combined with Mexican norteño music from Division Sierteña, funky grooves en español from the group Dinorah and Crosswinds, and much more, Latin American Festival Sacramento is one multifaceted fiesta.
Latin American Festival Sacramento
When: 1 p.m. Saturday, July 9
Where: Cesar Chavez Plaza, 910 I St., Sacramento
Cost: $20; children 12 years old and under enter for free.