It seems that come summer time, every culture in Baltimore wants to celebrate with a festival to call their very own. And lucky for me, I have friends who are willing to explore around town with me. One such friend suggested “Latino Fest” and we were off to the east side with little more than a sense of adventure.
Neither of us had never been to Paterson Park, where the festival was being held, but someone had told us that it was in Fells Point. So we drove down through the Harbor and across Little Italy to Fells. Here, the New Yorker in us (we’re both from the same state) told us to grab any available parking spot we saw. Which, of course, we did without realizing that Paterson Park is about 10 blocks east of where we were parked. So in addition to attending Latino Fest, we gave ourselves a little walking tour of Fells Point. It’s a lot nicer when you don’t attend during the hullabaloo of Halloween.
Anyway, we finally made it to the park, and after paying the entrance fee of $5 we were free to roam the fair. The air was filled with a mix of funnel cake, fried plantains and grilled meat. Ahh, the smells of summer! We did a tour around the festival to get our bearings; it was decently sized, with a mixture of food stands, handmade crafts and two stages. One stage was more kid-oriented, with Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego the main attractions. The other stage had live dancers and a band playing
Latino music from a variety of Latin American countries. There was meringue, mariachi and more, including an Ecuadorian form of dance I don’t know the name of. But it was cool to watch. As they performed and the emcee spoke in rapid-fire Spanish, I realized that high school Spanish was an extremely long time ago. I was still able to understand snippets of all the conversations around me, but it all seemed like eons ago.
After our sweep of the town, we decided food was the way to go. My friend’s vegetarian, so our decision of where to eat was determined by which stand looked the most meat-free friendly. I had a beef-empanada for the first time. It was good, saltier than I expected. My friend had a fried- mozzarella cheese and corn bread patty (that she assured me was delicious) and fried plantains, which I tried for the first time.
Then, sitting in the grass of the grass of the park, listening to a cover of a Celia Cruz song — recognizable by the cries of “Azucar!” peppered throughout — everyone just started to dance. It was subtle, some bobbing and swaying to the beat. And then in women began to salsa. Old women, young women. Maybe they knew each other, maybe they didn’t. But that didn’t stop everyone sitting around the amphitheater from shaking their hips to the beat.
The vendors were nothing out of the ordinary — the same sorts of crafts and bags and sunglasses at all of these fairs. However, McDonalds and Goya each had booths, which was fitting because they were sponsors. It was so nice to see bilingual signs across the entire fair and see flags from different Latino countries waving.
Walking back meant trying to beat the foreboding rain clouds, but there was time to stop at Rita’s. It was my first time going to one — I’d recommend the mango.
Hurray for another day of exploring Baltimore.
Many more adventures ahead,