Whether they want to sway to salsa music or savor a plate of tortillas, local residents have two chances to celebrate Latino culture this weekend.
Cary and Apex will both host free festivals Saturday featuring live Spanish music, dance performances and food.
Both fairs are celebrating anniversary years, a testament to the growing number of Hispanic residents in the Triangle. Organizers also say the annual events show an increased cultural awareness by non-Latinos.
Diamante Inc., a Cary-based nonprofit that focuses on preserving and promoting the Hispanic culture, is hosting the 10th annual Ritmo Latino Festival on South Academy Street. “Ritmo” translates to “rhythm” in Spanish.
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The Apex Latino Arts Festival will be at The Halle Cultural Arts Center and Apex Union Depot on Salem Street.
This is the first time the celebrations are taking place on the same day, but event coordinators aren’t worried that it will affect attendance.
“As the Latino community continues to grow, you are going to see more demand, more events, and some of them are going to overlap at times,” said David Flores, president of Diamante.
The number of Hispanics in western Wake County has increased exponentially since 2000. In Apex, the Latino population more than quadrupled from 648 to 2,655 between 2000 and 2010. In Cary, the number jumped from 4,047 in 2000 to 10,364 a decade later.
Because the events start and end at different times, organizers hope people will have time to attend both. Ritmo starts at noon, and the Apex festival begins at 3 p.m.
The Ritmo Latino Festival has grown each year. Last year, the fair drew about 5,000 people, Flores said.
“What we are finding is that three or four years ago, 5 percent of the people who came were non-Latinos,” Flores said. “Now it’s 40 percent, and it’s a mix of Caucasians and a lot of Asians. Ultimately, our role is to accelerate the integration of Latinos into the greater community.”
Besides the children’s play area, the musical performances are one of the most popular attractions, Flores said. This year there will be several international bands, such as Banda Blanca from Honduras.
There will be about 110 booths with vendors representing different organizations and companies. Food sellers from several different Spanish-speaking countries will set up, and the Carolina RailHawks will host a free soccer clinic at 11 a.m.
About 12 countries will be represented at the Apex festival, with 22 adult artists and about 20 youths featured in a special exhibit at The Halle, said Juliet Amoni, a a fair committee member.
Visitors will have the chance to taste authentic Latin American food from more than 10 different countries.
Amoni said she hopes visitors won’t skip out on one festival to attend the other.
“It’s not ideal, but what can we do?” she said. “Because we are in Apex, we have a lot of residents who will support Apex.”
She said the Apex festival tries to set itself apart from other local celebrations by focusing strongly on Hispanic art.
“We don’t have inflatables or face painting,” she said. “Just music, art and dancers.”
Like Flores, Amoni said she also hopes the festival helps provide better awareness about the Latin culture.
“People are not just from Mexico,” Amoni said. “There’s not a very general understanding of how diverse Latino culture is. The diversity of Latinos is like the diversity of colors.”