On a cool and breezy Saturday evening, I walked onto the premises of the Greenacres Community Park to experience the South Florida Ford sponsored Salsa Fest, an event that has become an annual tradition for Palm Beach County and that reflects its growing and vibrant Hispanic community. Being a lover of Salsa in particular and all things Latin American in general, it is needless to say I was excited. Immediately upon entering the feel good vibe was palpable and although I missed the opportunity to witness what I consider to be some of the most charming creatures on Earth – Chihuahuas – in all their glitz and glory in the Chihuahua costume contest and Chihuahua races, I arrived in time to catch Eddie Santiago’s performance, one of the main acts of the evening’s musical lineup. Luckily, on this November night, the only threat of rain came from Santiago’s unforgettable lyrics to “Lluvia,” a song emblematic of salsa romántica, the most commercially successful form of the genre in the 1980s and 90s. Being a Miami native myself, I could not help but be delightfully and nostalgically transported to my childhood. Santiago’s singing, “Lluvia. Tus besos frios como la lluvia…,” was more than music to my ears.
In addition to the music emanating from the stage, the festival’s center of attraction, the park was decorated with lights and an array of carnival rides for people of all ages to enjoy; and, what could be more nostalgic and romantic than a brightly lit up Ferris Wheel? From up top, a bird’s eye view of what turned out to be a truly enjoyable celebration was visible – domino games, cotton candy and arepa stands, flags from the United States, the Caribbean as well as Central and South America mingling and swaying in the distance. On the ground people of all ages were united in the fun and the incessant dancing. Nevertheless, nothing could have prepared me, or the crowd, for the energía of the headlining act by the Grammy nominated reggaeton duo, Alexis y Fido. Their presence brought a degree of electricity and diversity to the lineup of musicians, unforeseen in previous incarnations of Salsa Fest. According to Juan Dominguez with Wayne Akers Ford, who played a role in the marketing and production of the event, “The idea behind having integrated reggaeton is to challenge the idea of Salsa being associated with a specific genre of music in order to widen the notion to include spice, as in flavor that is definitive of Latin culture.” To the predominantly Puerto Rican crowd, no stranger to Latin Caribbean rhythms, the inclusion of the once underground genre was a welcome one as was visible in the enthusiasm with which it was received.
By the end of the night, there was no doubt about the unifying power of culture and music within a context that made it easy to take the ever wise and contagious Celia Cruz at her word, “La vida es un carnaval.” Life is a carnival; all one needs is to take it all in and enjoy, with an abundance of spice and a lot of “¡Salsa!”
Catalina Ramirez [Culture Designers]