A curious sight caught my eye while I was walking along Jane Street on a Saturday morning. It was two ladies working with LACA Queensland (Latin American Community of Australia) carrying a box that contained a small Santa garden statue.
I found out that later on that evening, there was going to be a Christmas in July party to raise funds for the upcoming Brisbane Fiesta Latina. Last year, LACA brought the Latin American culture to West End with a street party that spanned a part of Russell Street – which is where this year’s Brisbane Fiesta Latina will once again be held on 1 November. LACA’s vision is to “promote and share Latin American culture.” I recall there was a diverse range of food and drinks for sale, such as some traditional dishes from Chile, Colombia and Brazil. This is not surprising given that Latin America is a continent comprising more than 20 countries. The myriad colours of traditional costumes and the vibrant sounds of dances filled the street from morning till evening. Given the massive effort involved in organising the Fiesta for this year, the smaller Christmas in July party was organised to help with raising funds for the free community event.
The aforesaid Santa statue stood on a table with a nativity scene at the entrance to the Colossus Lounge, where the Christmas in July party was held. As I walked in, I was greeted by the smell of churros and other South American delights such as tamales (described as “leaf wrapped chicken and maize flour” on the menu) that were for sale. There was a big open dance floor between the stage and the tables where the guests were seated for the evening. One was reminded that it was a Christmas event by the tree and shiny tinsel hanging on the walls, in addition to there being a special Cuban Christmas dish of pork with a special sauce, rice and salad. The crowd included many South Americans although there were a few from other countries as well. One of them was the president of the West End Community Association, Erin Evans, who was seated at a table near mine with a small group. She shares, “Fun night of Latin food and music. The Mambistas got everybody up and dancing. We are really looking forward to the Fiesta Latina in November!”
Apart from a DJ (who, according to a Colombian friend of mine, played “very good Latin music”), a three-piece Cuban singing group and another ensemble provided us with live music for the evening. Though it had a fairly slow start, with an occasional couple walking to the middle of the dance floor for some salsa or cumbia, almost all of the guests were socialising and dancing as the night went on. Those on the dance floor even formed a massive circle to dance together, with some impressive dance moves displayed. I chatted with a Bolivian attendee who said that such an event exemplified what she loves about a Latin party: everyone dances!
After the 2013 Fiesta Latina and the Christmas in July event, I am really looking forward to experiencing more Latin culture at the next Fiesta this November!
Words and photos by Rachel Lee