Festival Latino takes over BREC Airline Highway Park/Fairgrounds on Sunday.
Begun in 1986 as a project of the Diocese of Baton Rouge Hispanic Apostolate’s youth ministry, the event’s purpose was to bring together all Hispanics and Latinos to share the different cultures of their representative countries. The purpose has not changed in its 28 years, but the size of the festival has.
Elsa Galarza, general coordinator for the festival, said there will be more children’s activities, including a magician, and that several new entertainers will join the musical lineup.
“We have a harpist this year,” Galarza said. “She plays the harp, but it’s an infusion with Latin rhythms.”
The Latin jazz harpist and composer, Patrice Fisher, is American, but her husband is from Guatemala, Galarza said. Fisher has been performing and recording her own compositions for 22 years, as well as teaching in Guatemala.
Also featured will be Mariachi Jalisco, who sometime perform as Cuban Fire. Comprised of all classically trained Cuban-born musicians who played and lived in Cuba and Mexico before calling Baton Rouge home, the band has become very popular in Louisiana under both names. Joining the lineup is Merengue 4, of New Orleans by way of the Dominican Republic. They play a noncommercial, faster-paced merengue called perico ripiao. The Horoscopes of Durango will also perform and Baton Rouge’s DJ Chily will provide sounds throughout the day.
In addition to the music, there will be lots of food representing the various cultures of the celebrants. Often represented are Mexican and Cuban dishes, Galarza said, but for the first time, Puerto Rican food will be sold. Authentic food from Colombia, Honduras, Peru and Venezuela will also be available, plus assorted snacks, fruit, desserts and beverages. All food is cooked and provided by volunteers, not restaurants.
“The whole festival is handled by volunteers,” Galarza said. “We have about 200 volunteers this year.”
Functioning as a fundraiser for the Hispanic Apostolate, having many volunteers is essential to garnering funding for diocesan program.
The apostolate regularly offers music and religious education and ESL classes, among other things. However, according to executive director Maria Rosa Eads, this year a great deal of the apostolate’s work has been handling paperwork to assist the influx of orphaned Latino children illegally crossing American borders.
“Most of the children have relatives already living here,” Eads said. “The Hispanic Apostolate supports the families by completing the necessary paperwork to let them be settled here while awaiting court hearings.”
But more than just financially supporting the work done by the religious program, Festival Latino is for the cultures.
“We can share our culture and heritage with the people of Baton Rouge, regardless if they are Hispanic or not,” Galarza said.
Galarza added that she is most excited about this year’s entertainment, including culturally representative games and activities, and the expansion of the children’s area.
Average attendance at the festival is 4,000 people, she said.
11 a.m.: Opening prayer by Rev. Eliecer M. Grimaldos, Elsa Galarza and Maria Rosa Eads (Oración de apertura por el Rev. Eliecer M. Grimaldos, Elsa Galarza y Maria Rosa Eads)
11:15 a.m.: Music with “DJ Chily” (Musica con “DJ Chily”) and food booth interviews with emcee (Presentación kioscos con maestro de ceremonias)
12:30 p.m.: Live music with Patrice Fisher, harpist (Musica en vivo con Patrice Fisher y su arpa)
1:40 p.m.: Live music with Mariachi Jalisco (Musica en vivo con Mariachi Jalisco)
2:40 p.m.: Presentation of sponsors with emcee (Presentación de patrocinadores con maestro de ceremonias)
3 p.m.: Live music with Merengue 4 (Musica en vivo con Merengue 4)
4 p.m.: Raffle drawing (Rifa)
4:15 p.m.: Presentation of the Queen and her Court (Presentación de la reina y su corte)
4:30 p.m.: Horoscopos de Durango, regional Mexican music (Horoscopos de Durango, música regional Mexicana)
6 p.m: Closing (Cierre de actividade)