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Central American food and culture will take place at festival

Saturday brings a celebration of food, culture and family tradition with the 11th annual Central American Independence Festival.

Special to the Herald
New Orleans resident Julio Rojas visits his family in Miami twice a year. But his next trip to South Florida will be for more than just a get-together.

Rojas will be traveling with the Nicaraguan Folkloric Ballet Cosmapa group to perform in front of hundreds of people with ties to Central America and Mexico at the 11th annual Central American Independence Festival, which celebrates those countries’ respective independence days.

The free festival takes place from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Florida International University’s College of Engineering and Computing campus, 10555 West Flagler St.

“We bring a traditional program that includes classic dances,” said Rojas, director of the 18-member group.

Founded in 1999, the folkloric ballet has performed in several New Orleans’ festivals. Rojas said it is an opportunity for his performers to shine on stage away from home.

“I want people in Miami to know that there are Central American artists all over the United States, he said.

The non-profit Community Performing Arts Association, based in South Miami-Dade, is organizing the event. The organization helps promote Latin American tradition and culture in South Florida, among other goals, founder Consuelo Espinosa said.

“This is an integration of cultures where different countries get together to share their traditions,” she said.

The Central American Independence Day is observed in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Sept. 15, while Mexicans celebrate their national holiday Sept. 16. The venue for Saturday’s event is fitting: Nearby Sweetwater has become an enclave for Central American, especially Nicaraguan, immigrants over the years.

A parade will kick off the party, departing from Ronselli Park at Southwest Second Street and 114th Avenue, and ending at the FIU engineering campus. The parade will include floats and JROTC members from Braddock and Coral Park Senior high schools. Members of the community and the Coral Park Senior High’s Band of Gold will march and perform.

For food lovers, there will be several food stands offering dishes, such as carne asada with gallo pinto (grilled steak with rice and beans). Also, South American foods, such as arepas, will be on sale.

A children’s reading contest also will take place with winners taking home medals and school supplies as prizes. Airline tickets will be raffled, too.

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