From downtown parks and stages to the Acadiana Center for the Arts, to Girard Park and even the Horse Farm, there was a time when the Latin Music Festival bounced around looking for a place to land.
Persistence, hard work and, well, persistence and hard work has finally helped push the Latin Music Festival into the realm of recognized and broadly supported local festivals.
And it shows this year with Festival International de Louisiana and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (aka Downtown Lafayette) as the Latin festival’s latest collaborators.
All this is musica para mis oidos.
The Latin Music Festival, a free family fete with all the trimmings (read: music, food, beverages and fun) is set for 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday at Parc International.
However, with a nod to the good ol’ days when DLU’s Downtown Alive! was the kickoff event for Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, the acclaimed downtown Friday evening weekend starter kit returns to do the same for the Latin festival with Rio Luminoso and Doctor Nativo, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at Parc International.
“Twenty years of struggles finally paid off,” said Luis Mora, chairman of Asociación Cultural Latino-Acadiana (ACLA), the organization behind the festival. “We have proven resiliency, for one, and I think it’s a great festival for the community.”
A brief pause and Luis, moved to clarify his statement that the Latin Music Festival wasn’t an insular event.
“The Acadiana community, you know,” he said. “It’s from the Latin community for everybody in Acadiana. But in addition to that, I think we have a lot to show.”
Luis noted the folklore, food, dance classes “and the music that we bring is very good” that make up the festival. A sweet lineup showcases Doctor Navito (Guatemaya), Rudy Rincon y Grupo Kache (Houston) and Angelucho Copa Copacabana (Cuba) and Lafayette’s own, Latino Pulse, "which we’ve been patronizing since they came together,” Luis said. “They’re doing quite well.”
For 17 years, Luis and ACLA have put on the festival. But ACLA came first some 20 years ago with help from Philippe Gustin, former director of the International Centre, as well as others, like Jackie Lyle and PASA (Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, which merged with the AcA a few years ago).
“Jackie told us the only way to make money (for ACLA to stand on its own) is to have a festival,” Luis recalled. “So with her help and some of the office and staff, we put a festival together in two months.”
I’ve been to the Latin Music Festival on and off over the years and have enjoyed myself immensely. The food and the music are both tasty and wonderful additions to this area, a microcosm of a culturally diverse planet also sometimes known as the best foreign country in the U.S.
I may even get there early enough this year for the dance class; not that it will help a guy who dances like nobody’s watching (laughing, perhaps), anyway.
Seriously, I’m glad to see DTA! and Festival International stepping up and in to help with things that have needed an experienced hand with items such as sound, lighting, pins, posters and merchandise.
ACLA’s fete also has the support of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Louisiana Convention and Visitors Commission and Louisiana Department of Tourism.
Luis is obviously pleased with the support.
“We hope that through this marriage of convenience and expertise we’ll maybe make it a nice three-day festival and attract people from Houston and Mississippi — all these places,” he said.
But for the hometown folks, Luis would like the festival to open a few doors, if not minds, to realize just how diverse Lafayette really is.
“The Latin community has a lot to offer the community here,” he said. “They’ll have to opportunity to look at, know better and establish a better understanding between the people who live here in the area. We’re making a very nice effort to present something that is good for the community. And we’ll attract people to Lafayette.”
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