Hot! Gallery Festival Cubano #4 at Riis Park

Not your typical ethnic festival.

Although Lollapalooza pretty much consumed the rest of the city especially by the lake, for me and my photographer, David, the best way to let off steam out in the inner city was to get to Riis Park in the early evening to check out the music, celebrate the Cuban heritage.

Festival Cubano 2013 - Photo courtesy of David Delamancha

Festival Cubano 2013 – Photo courtesy of David Delamancha

As soon as we arrived to the park we stopped for a minute to check out some of the family entertainment that is expected at an ethnic festivals in the city. What we found was exactly that which makes this festival different compared to the rest.

Zumba rhythms were the first thing we encountered as we entered. This fun and exercise moment brought by Martha Patricia along with her Chicago Latin Fitness troupe made me tired just watching these girls not only break a sweat but swing their hips while helping the crowd work off whatever they ate or will eat that weekend.

Even if we felt like we worked out (well we watched actually), after the Zumba watching we felt the immediate need to sample some authentic Cuban cuisine, even if it was Puerto Rican cuisine we had to have it. I found us a pincho (kabob) that consisted of tostones (fried plantains) and carnitas (fried pork chunks) was in order but what I couldn’t resist on sight was the (greasy but always delicious) accapuria (ground plantain and meat dumpling) waiting for me to devour it before we had to get to the main stage event.

Only after some more food, people watching and a tiny bit of shopping for some authentic island jewelry, we scored a couple of pretty cool “House Music” t-shirts of our very own (we had to have them). We each have a great love of House Music so this was going to be a great night Cuban culture and history of some great music.

Festival Cubano 2013 - Photo courtesy of David Delamancha

Festival Cubano 2013 – Photo courtesy of David Delamancha

“The History of House Music” was Friday’s theme at the main stage and the festival promised upwards of 40 DJ’s and artists from around the country, and especially from the City of Chicago. As 30th Ward Alderman Ariel Reboyas said from the stage, “They have their Lollapalooza and we have OUR LATINPELUSA!”

Ready to dance, I was quick to grab a moment between some “Acid Thunder” and “Trapped” tracks to talk to a few of the DJs and I must say that even after all these years, it is great to hear that Kenny “Jammin'” Jason, Frankie “Hollywood” Rodriguez and Martino “Spinnin” Ramos among a few others, speak openly about their love for the art of house music, the evolution of the craft they started since the mid seventies and are still very fortunate to be such a large part of today.

Kenny “Jammin” Jason has many web channels, outlets for his music and is still active on the radio via his show on 1Club.FM, Frankie “Hollywood” Rodriguez is also still active on the radio, is a film director and producer as well, and Martino “Spinnin” Ramos continues doing his live performances for parties and other appearances around the city.

Jerry Rivera performs at Festival Cubano 2013 - Festival Cubano 2013 - Photo courtesy of David Delamancha

Jerry Rivera performs at Festival Cubano 2013 – Festival Cubano 2013 – Photo courtesy of David Delamancha

Saturday was no less exciting but a lot more emotional as women (of all ages) were pulling every trick they could to get backstage to get a close glimpse of Puerto Rican legend Jerry Rivera. Jerry was hard to get close to but he still held the attention of the crowd. Even before he actually got on stage, the opening to one of his most famous songs played had the audience dancing and screaming like it was 1992 when he gave in and delivered the crowd favorite “Cuenta Conmigo”.

A tribute to Celia Cruz, the Cacho Mambo All Stars and The Cuban All Stars, along Timbalive rounded off Sunday and the weekend for carnival goers and the non-Lolla lovers who danced, ate and continued to dance as the exited the weekend away. We can’t wait to see how Festival Cubano tops #4 next year.

Check out the weekend in pictures courtesy of David Delamancha.