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Corazon Latino Festival: Food, song, and dance downtown

W. Kenneth Medley II • Apr 13, 2019 at 12:25 AM

The sights and sounds of Latin America were impossible to miss in downtown Johnson City Friday afternoon and into the evening as the 10th annual Corazon Latino Festival got underway.

The festival is an opportunity for people to get a taste of Latin American culture from Mexico to South America. Represented through art, food song, dance and much more, countries from around the world could be explored.

Face painting was a favorite of the children, and talented volunteers had Marvel superheroes running amok.

“It is really about unifying the community,” said Rana Zakaria, event coordinator, “and each year we are seeing a bigger turnout. The community is so passionate about diversity and celebrating it, that is a big thing.”

Cultural diversity was not the only educational topic of the festival. Stations provided information about heart health, vaccinations, mental health, business and many other topics.

Entertainment was a special way for participants to partake in cultural learning.

Florencia Rusiñol, a Johnson City native who has been living in Ecuador, and Chicago Samba serenaded the crowd. Chicago Samba is a Brazilian carnival music group.

Dr. Felipe Fiuza, a native of Brazil, was moved emotionally by the music.

“I never thought that it would be possible to experience this, what you see right now, outside of Brazil,” said Fiuza. “Brazilian carnival music is really unique. There isn’t anything that I miss more than carnival. Carnival happens at a time of year at the end of summer and is kind of a rite of passage. How can you learn about this from books or watching on YouTube? This is something that you have to live, that you have to be there.”

Chicago Samba performers pumped up the crowd the moment they stepped on stage with their upbeat festival music. Shiny costumes and fast dancing had people sweating as they Conga-lined around Founder’s Pavilion. The warm temperatures and humid conditions may have had the atmosphere feeling even more like Fiuza’s carnival from memory.

Many were there to dance and enjoy food, and as the night went on many stayed to enjoy the festivities. Food trucks provided authentic Latin food at the pavilion, with lines running from the windows of most.

“I am just here to dance and eat food,” said Lily Hamilton. “You really don’t realize how hot it is until you are dancing and drenched in sweat.”

Each Latin country is unique; examples of differences can be found in music and language, Fiuza said.

The festival is an opportunity to showcase the differences under one roof: “We are just showing the community that Latino is such a broad word to use,” said Zakaria.

There were too many people to count at the event, with festival goers of all ages walking, eating and dancing to the fun sounds of carnival. 

Organizers said that they really want people to take away a better understanding of what it means to be Latino.

The success of the event was attributed in part to the weather, with rain staying away. Rain plagued the event last year, and according to Zakaria, there was the fear of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raiding the event.

“Last year, unfortunately, the day before in Murfreesboro there was an ICE raid,” Zakaria said, “which really effected our turnout. We had horrible weather, it was raining, cold and freezing.”

Fiuza says he hopes people get to experience culture in order to understand how full of life Latino culture is. The main idea was to integrate people into these cultures in order to spark a drive to learn more.

He noted the event was organized and put on by students from ETSU.

When asked about the success of the event Fiuza had nothing but adulation to give, saying people just did not want to go away.

Walking was the only price of admission: The event was free, but parking was scarce.

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