Started by five brothers, the annual ExpoNica festival has been celebrating Latin American culture for nearly two decades.
BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Natives of Latin America can immerse themselves in the traditions and culture of their homeland this weekend without traveling far.
The 20th annual ExpoNica — The Fair of the Americas will celebrate Latin American roots by highlighting music, food, crafts and artwork at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition grounds, 10901 Coral Way, in a three-day festival starting Friday.
The cost is $11 for adults. Children under 8 and senior citizens are free. Parking is complimentary.
The fair is open Friday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
More than 70 vendors will be demonstrating how to make typical ceramic decorations from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia and Chile.
“Miami will be celebrating all different cultures,” said Eduardo Arroyo, executive director of ExpoNica International Inc., a nonprofit organization. “It has become a tradition. People wait year round for the event.”
Vendors from across Latin America will fly in to South Florida to sell pottery and jewelry, hammocks, clothes and art.
For the first time, there will be a horse parade and a fashion show. Over 140 artists and musical bands will hit the stage performing musical acts like La Nueva Compañia from Nicaragua, Los Iracundos from Argentina and Binomio de Oro, which will be playing vallenato, a type of folkloric Colombian music.
For food lovers, there will be 30 vendors selling traditional dishes like tortilla, carne asada, grilled steak, gallo pinto, rice and beans. Alcoholic beverages will also be sold.
Alberto Jimenez, who owns Doña Arepa, a factory in Allapattah that produces sweet corn patties with mozzarella cheese, said the event is a marketing tool.
“It’s an event that brings in a lot of people,” said Jimenez, who has sold his products at ExpoNica for more than 15 years. “It’s a great way to promote my product. People get to know the name and you sell your products to festival-goers.”
The three-day event was founded by Eduardo Arroyo and his five brothers as a way to preserve Hispanic culture.
In 1991, the fair began with an exhibition of Nicaraguan artisan pottery and folk art. Arroyo said he noticed South Florida’s diversity, so the nonprofit incorporated other countries such as Brazil, Peru, Chile, and the Dominican Republic and much of Latin America, as well.
For children, there will be entertainment like bounce houses and pony rides.
“It is fun for the whole family,” Arroyo said.
For more information, go to www.exponica.org.