History All Around Us: Festival Betances 2018
Nearly half a century ago, Latino members of the South End community organized to dedicate one July weekend to the celebration of their heritage with music, dancing, food, and activities for all ages. Over the years, what started as a neighborhood block party has grown into our annual Festival Betances! Each year we’re proud to welcome more than 3,000 attendees—and this year was no different!
We kicked off the festival with remarks from Mayor Marty Walsh, who touched upon the IBA’s relief efforts after Hurricane Maria last year. Boston City Council Member Ayanna Pressley noted that “history is all around us”, recognizing Festival Betances as an important endeavor to preserve Puerto Rican history and culture.
Our staff, residents, and extended community members proudly marched throughout the South End alongside local politicians, sponsors, family, friends, and spectators.
Following the parade, festival goers had a full schedule of activities to choose from. We enjoyed bomba from famous musician & educator Jorge Arce, powerful spoken-word poetry from our Youth, and an incredible dance number from Area 51. Of course, we were tempted by the smell of mouth-watering Latin dishes like empanadas, churros, and alcapurrias.
Later in the evening, crowds flocked to the stage to enjoy live music from electrifying duo Gilenny Gi and Erikk Santana, Frankie Rodriguez & homenaje a la salsa, and Puerto Rican salsa musician Giro López.
Day two started off with some rain, but nothing stops our community from having fun. We encouraged everyone to stop by our art exhibit, ‘The Power That Voice Has,’ to keep dry while waiting for the sun to come out. Students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design transformed La Galería into a historical timeline of IBA in honor of our 50th Anniversary. Stop by before this exhibit closes to learn more about our impact on the city!
The clouds parted just as “La reina del timbal,” (the Queen of timbales) Zayra Pola and her all-female band 3nity took the stage, followed by mambo master Eguie Castrillo and his Big Band. The crowd went wild for trovador Julio César Sanabria, whose improvised, folkloric style of singing resonated with our Puerto Rican roots.
We were honored to close this year’s Festival with “El Godfather de la Salsa” Andy Montañez, who drew a huge crowd that filled the entire Plaza. From salsa experts to newcomers, everyone in attendance was up on their feet, dancing and cheering on one of the biggest names in Latin music.
This event would not have been possible without our generous sponsors, our staff, and, of course, the energy and support of our community. It’s not easy to preserve culture, but we are touched by everyone’s effort in celebrating our history.
We hope to see you next year! In the meantime, come to one of the Tito Puente Latin Music Series free concerts this summer.