Three years ago in the summer of 2021, a small handful of volunteers launched St. Albert’s first Latin Festival.
“I have many music contacts and we organized a Latin extravaganza. We invited friends to the picnic shelter in Lions Park. We had no money for marketing, and it just spread by word-of-mouth. We had no expectations. But just around the time we were to start about 300 people showed up,” said Jorge Vargas, chair for St. Albert Latin Cultural Association (SALCA).
Two years down the road, the free St. Albert Latin Festival has grown to include food vendors, a beer garden, arts and crafts booths, as well as 17 music and dance acts.
Vargas said there is a misconception there is only one sound to Latino music.
In fact, audiences and musicians speaking different languages are attracted to Latino music and they are ushering in a new type of concert that connects all Spanish languages. It’s one that transcends language barriers not only with traditional Latino music, but with additional infusions of pop, rock, hip-hop and soulful ballads.
“The artists will sing in Spanish. People may not understand the words, but they understand the feeling. The melodies captivate people,” Vargas said. He added festival performers span numerous genres from Mariachi, flamenco and jazz to pop, hip-hop, rock, blues and Brazilian vibes.
Once alternative, Latin music has made its way into the mainstream. Festivals across North America are big marketing tools adding to a community’s cultural fabric. Not only is St. Albert’s summer festival a 10-hour Latino playlist, but it’s also an opportunity to get crowds singing and dancing.
“We appreciate the support of people in St. Albert and to be able to host this event, and we hope to continue showcasing Latin art. We believe in this and we’re trying to get as creative as possible.”
The City of St. Albert provided a $5,000 grant to host the event.
St. Albert Latin Festival runs Saturday, Aug.19 from noon to 10 p.m. at Lions Park. The festival is free, however, attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and camping chairs.
Below is a list of upcoming entertainers.
• Cristian Reyes and Omar Nef take turn telling jokes as Master of Ceremonies.
• Cristian De La Luna, a Colombian born St. Albert resident, is a rising star among Latin Canadian singer-songwriters. The award-winning recording artist was just nominated as Global Artist of the Year for the 2023 Western Canadian Music Awards.
• Manny V. Y Su Esquina Latina wins audiences’ hearts with its heavy horn and percussion sections.
• Guitarist Marco Claveria was originally from Chile. However, the guitarist and his trio perform Cuban infused rhythms.
• The six-piece Mariachi Borealis, attired in big Mexican sombreros and flashy suits, use trumpets, violins and guitars to perform its romantic ballads.
• Mandakaru, also a six-piece, performs Brazilian salsas and sambas using triangles, tambourines and assorted percussion instruments.
• The Rodrigo Sosa Big Band with its 19 musicians introduces traditional big band jazz and Latino jazz.
• Originally from Spain, now living in Westlock, flamenco guitarist Oscar-Jose Garcia and his Judith, a flamenco dancer demonstrate the fiery art form.
• Salvadorian singer-songwriter Max Mendez shakes it up with the latest in Latin pop.
• St. Albert's Alexa Leon described as a "diamond in the rough" opens up with Latin, pop and a bit of Mariachi.
• Los Rebeldes Musicales, a 10-piece ensemble of 15 and 16-year-year teenage musicians led by Vargas play Latin blues and rock. “It’s a Santana kind of rock,” said Vargas.
• Instead, Grupo de Baile Victor Jara, a Chilean dance troupe attired in traditional costumes, will interpret four dances.
• Nicaraguan born Angel Hernandez also known as ‘The Dancing Mariachi’ performs in Day of the Dead makeup.
• Amanda Rivers, a singer celebrated for her presence and voice, sings El Salvadorian, Mexican and Mariachi songs.
• Chilean Sol de Norte returns to St. Albert performing underground Latin-rock music that was played during Chile’s dictatorships. “We are here on stage to sing beautiful music. But we must say something when things are wrong and need to change. That is the role of an artist – to speak about messy things,” Vargas added.
• Calafquén, also a dance troupe, will perform three dances wearing Chilean costumes.
• At 9 p.m. Irina Feldesh will offer a Latin dance demonstration and lesson.