Hispanic festival has food, dancing


August 08, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

The dancers were a little sparse, but the strollers and babies in strollers were plentiful as downtown Baltimore's Hispanic Festival opened amid a flourish of Panama hats, Latin music and sizzling chorizos yesterday.

Many people seemed to be taking advantage of the pleasant afternoon as they browsed among the booths and lolled around the fountains in Hopkins Plaza, drinking sangria, eating tamales and enchiladas, watching Panamanian folk dancers and eyeing the festival queen candidates.

The free festival continues from noon to 9 p.m. today at Hopkins Plaza. An outdoor Mass there will be offered at 11 a.m.

First-time festival-goer Andrew Hryniewicz of Arbutus said in the afternoon, "It's a little slow right now," but he was counting on the crowd and the music to pick up toward evening. He was finishing a plate of shish kebab and rice from one of the many food booths lining the edges of the plaza.

Rain in the early evening halted the festivities only temporarily.

Delfina Pereda, the festival's director, said, "Every year it's better and better." She has lived in Baltimore for 30 years and worked at the festival since it began 19 years ago. This is her third year as director.

"I love to work for my people," said Mrs. Pereda, who in addition to organizing the festival, stocked a booth with 200 tamales, dozens of enchiladas and great quantities of horchata, a cool peanut punch for which she even roasted the peanuts.

At booths around the plaza, groups offered food from Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Puerto Rico and more -- about 15 countries are represented at food booths.

And though the food is a big part of this festival, Mrs. Pereda said the entertainment is just as important. "We love dancing," she added.

Among the other vendors were those peddling information -- in HTC English and Spanish -- on how to save money on electricity bills, how to receive Social Security benefits and how to avoid AIDS.

Sponsored by the Federation of Hispanic Organizations of Baltimore, the festival celebrates about 20 cultures from Central and South America. Nearly 30,000 Hispanics from those areas live in Baltimore, said Haydee Rodriguez, the mayor's liaison with the Hispanic community, who was staffing a festival information booth.

The largest groups are from Mexico, Puerto Rico and El Salvador, she said.

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