From the moment the music started, people started dancing. Linda and Rafael Garcia of North Charleston wasted no time dancing across the floor as soon as the band started playing. Linda, from Columbia, and Rafael, from Puerto Rico, have been coming to the festival for a long time to dance.
"I love dancing," said Rafael adding he has been winning dance contests for years.
The Garcias were not alone in their love of dance at the 18th Annual Latin American Festival Sunday at Wannamaker Park in North Charleston. The festival, formerly known as the Festival Hispano, offered Latin American food, music, dance as well as a children's area. Over 3,000 attended the festival proudly wearing the colors of their country.
For those, like me, who can't dance or who choose not to dance there was plenty of food to eat, vendors to browse and the children's area. I sure have missed some of my Mexican favorites since moving to South Carolina and was looking forward to some fajitas and empanadas. I love spicy Mexican food and the festival had much to offer.
Unlike me, most could dance. The Buen Ache Dance Company entertained the crowd with many different dance styles including Merengue and Salsa.
As other dance performers took the stage they encouraged the audience to join them and learn new dance routines. Men, women and children jumped on stage and danced along side the instructors. Soon the dance floor crowded and people started dancing in the audience.
The festival looked less like a staged event and more like a block party as the audience was no longer just watching but getting involved in the act.
The audience only sat for a few performances like Capoeira Charleston who dance using a combination of kicks, spins and flips across the floor. The dance, called Capoeira, is a martial art from Brazil. Can't imagine that would have turned out too good had the audience gotten involved in that dance.
The best part of the performances was the different kind of music played. Some danced to pre-recorded Salsa mixes while Capoeira Charleston brought their own band. Those not dancing kept the beat using unique types of drums (atabaque), string instruments (berimbaus) and tambourines (pandeiros).
Less formal performances followed as audience members crowded the floor to dance with Zumba in Charleston. Zumba is an aerobic dance exercise set to Latin music.
Once the performances were complete everyone crowded the dance floor once again for a Salsa dance contest. Everyone had their own style as they spun the floor. These dancers infused their own cultural moves into the dance which made for an interesting contest.
In fact, the mixture of all the Latin American cultures made for a very interesting festival. Most of the audience wore their countries' colors in the most interesting way. While some had shirts with country names and colors printed on them others decorated clothing flags or just draped flags around them. It made for a very colorful festival.
I never realized the Lowcountry had such a diverse Latin American community. It was fun to watch as they celebrated their heritage.
It was hard to leave the festival as the spicy aroma of Latin food followed me to the car. But, I did manage to walk away albeit with a skip in my step as the music played on.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.