Salsa Onstage, Salsa on a Plate

Salsa Onstage, Salsa on a Plate

Chirilagua Festival offers a taste of Latin America.

Lots of music, lots of food and lots of people filled the Arlandria-Chirilagua Festival last Sunday. According to some estimates, more than 15,000 people, according to some estimates, crowded into Four Mile Run Park to enjoy music and dancing, crafts and food.

"We were thrilled. We were thrilled that so many people came,” said Suyapa Hernandez, office manager at the Tenant and Worker Support Committee. “We had 14 food and craft vendors and many musical and dance groups.”

Along with the city recreation department, TWSC sponsored the festival. “It was just a perfect day and it didn’t rain,” said Janet Barnett, recreation department deputy director. “We couldn’t have been more pleased to see all of the people.”

Onstage musicians played salsa and meringue tunes, but food is the focus of most Latin festivals. Santos Ramirez was preparing pupusas, fried tortillas filled with pork or beef, cheese and condiments and a staple in many Central American households. The pupusa is topped with a kind of slaw and served warm.

Another staple is yucca con chicharron – yucca with fried pork. Yucca is a type of starchy tuber, like a potato. Served with chicharron, vegetables and a salad, it is a whole meal.

No picnic would be complete without carne asada. “You cook the meat with condiments and serve it with rice, no bread,” Maria Martinez said. Fried plantain is also often served as a side dish, with cream. “It can go with anything,” Martinez said.

ONE OF THE busiest booths at the festival was Mama Rosa’s Ices.

“Here in this country you call them snow cones,” said Anna Yancy Fernandez. “In El Salvador, we call them minutes.”

They can be made with almost any fruit juice, she said, like pineapple, orange or banana.

“Then put this jelly-like fruit on top of it. The jelly-like fruit is called tamarindo and it is really good,” said Fernandez. “It is a combination of sweet and sour that tastes really good.”

The tamarind grows throughout Mexico and other parts of Central America and is widely used in sauces and in desserts and beverages.