Whether you call it the Latin Festival or Festival Latino, there’s something for the young and the not-so-young at this year’s 25th annual celebration.
The event raises funds for the many programs the Hispanic Apostolate of the diocese of Baton Rouge handles in the area, including those for youth, and emergency assistance, English classes, immigration services and religious services.
Crafts, directed by clown performer Lagrimita, will keep the kids busy while the adults take in performances by the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Mariachi Jalisco and “the Queen of Merengue” Milly Quezada. Also look for the karaoke contest, the crowning of the festival queen and a raffle for $500. There will be a train ride, rope climbing wall, mechanical bull and bounce house. Food cooked on-site will represent the countries of Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru.
“You’ll eat very well,” said Maria Rosa Eads, executive director of the Hispanic Apostolate. “It’s homemade, real traditional food.”
Pupusas from El Salvador, nacatamales from Nicaragua, tacos from Mexico, and that’s just a start. The desserts-only booth will offer flan, pineapple upside-down cake, tres leches, and more.
The Latin Ballet is a return performer for the festival, but brings a different type of show this year, according to Elsa Galarza, who’s coordinating entertainment. “It’s based on traditional dances, but it’s to stop the abuse of Mother Earth. The name of the production is Green (Verde),” Galarza said.
Specifically, the production shows through dance how Latin American and Caribbean indigenous cultures venerate Nature and preserve a deep respect for Mother Earth.
The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge is part sponsor of the ballet troupe’s visit.
A real coup for the festival this year is an appearance by Latin Grammy winner Milly Quezada. From the Dominican Republic, Quezada is performing in Louisiana for the first time, and with her orchestra. Her merengue rhythms, sure to get the crowd dancing, are comically referred to as “the Latino weight-loss program.”
“You can be dancing all the time,” Eads said, of the music’s noon-6 p.m. lineup.
Just as securing Quezada was a major undertaking, so is preparation and operation of the festival, Eads said. “We have about 200 volunteers. It’s manned by volunteers only, doing just about everything,” Eads said.
“And we even have a couple of Americans,” Galarza added, laughing.