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Published: Sunday, 6/15/2003

Latino food, art, music add spice to downtown fest

BY MICHAEL LOPRESTI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Roquel Rodriguez, left, and Debbie Sanchez share a laugh while listening to music of the Midwest Godfathers. Roquel Rodriguez, left, and Debbie Sanchez share a laugh while listening to music of the Midwest Godfathers.
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The colors of Latino culture shone brightly yesterday in Promenade Park during LatinoFest's third annual celebration of the visual, performing, and culinary arts.

From rows of tents along the Maumee River, vendors sold an eclectic mix of both traditional and contemporary crafts, apparel, and artwork from a range of Latin American countries.

In one tent, Jose Martinez, a self-taught painter and muralist from Toledo, sold paintings with a distinctly modern flavor. Many of Mr. Martinez's vivid canvases featured urban scenes framed by the red, white, and green of the Mexican flag.

A few tents away, Luzmila Males, an Ecuador native who now lives in Columbus, displayed hand-woven wool tunics and tapestries that have been characteristic of Ecuador for centuries.

While she doesn't sell many of the heavy tunics or tapestries in the warm summer months, she admitted, her wooden flutes - hand-painted with brightly colored depictions of animals - which are also traditionally Ecuadorean, are always very popular.

LatinoFest, a one-day event, also provided a variety of Latin American cuisine, featuring offerings from Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Colombia.

At one booth with a sign proclaiming “Jugos Magicos,” Norma Trejo of Toledo ladled out red, orange, and yellow liquid from four large jugs.

Alexandra Dominguez, 14, of Lansing, Mich., finds the daylong fest a tad tiring. Alexandra Dominguez, 14, of Lansing, Mich., finds the daylong fest a tad tiring.
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While the direct English translation of “Jugos Magicos” is “Magic Juices,” Mrs. Trejo insisted that the contents of the jugs were “fruit waters,” not juices.

“It's just water mixed with fruit and sugar. That's it. We leave the pulp and everything,” she said.

Whatever they were, the traditional Mexican drinks, which came in melon, pineapple, lemon, and watermelon varieties, worked their magic on the LatinoFest crowds.

Even some of the musicians scheduled to perform couldn't resist partaking in the culinary delights on display. Los Tres Sonidos, a mariachi-style trio from Columbus decked out in matching bright blue and pink print shirts and jet-black pants, treated themselves to arroz con gandules, a rice dish, from one of the food tents just minutes before they took the stage.

And fest-goers were treated to a celebrity sighting as Raulito, the much-adored younger brother and performance partner of Grammy award-winning Tejano singer Emilio Navaira, strolled through the festival a few hours before his performance later in the evening.

As Irene Dartt, who came to the festival with her granddaughter Tiffany, headed onto the grass of Promenade Park with a plate full of steaming rice, refried beans, and soft tacos to listen to Los Tres Sonidos, she summed up the sentiments of all of those in attendance. “We're here because we love the music, we love the food ... we love everything,” she exclaimed.



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