Cincy-Cinco Latino Festival to expand to three days for first time

Asi Es Colombia, a Colombian folklore dance group, will perform once again at the Cincy-Cinco Festival on May 6. CONTRIBUTED

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Asi Es Colombia, a Colombian folklore dance group, will perform once again at the Cincy-Cinco Festival on May 6. CONTRIBUTED

Since Cinco De Mayo happens to fall on a Friday this year, organizers of Cincy-Cinco, the Tri-State’s biggest Latino cultural festival, decided to expand the annual event to a three-day weekend for the first time in its 14-year history. However, according to Neil Comber, co-founder of the festival, Cincy-Cinco is about much more than Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that is still largely misunderstood.

“Cinco de Mayo isn’t very popular in Mexico, partially because it celebrated a small, short-lived victory against the French,” said Comber, a Mexican native and currently retired Procter & Gamble transplant. “For some reason, it’s taken on a much bigger meaning here (in the U.S.). A lot of people still think it celebrates Mexican independence.”

In truth, Cincy-Cinco commemorates the dance, music, and culture of all of Latin America plus the Caribbean. While munching on Venezuelan empanadas, Colombian arepas, gourmet Mexican tacos, or Caribbean chicken, patrons can listen to salsa music and watch dancing troupes from Panama and Brazil.

“Several years ago, we encouraged a ‘Salsa on the Square’ event on Fountain Square,” Comber said. “And that grew from a few hundred Latinos to a few hundred Latinos plus about 700 non-Latinos. I also think the American palette is broadening. We don’t just eat hamburgers and fries anymore. Salsa outsells ketchup these days.”

Comber said Cincy-Cinco is always looking for new ways to connect Latin culture with the Greater Cincinnati area. This year, two members of the Latino community composed a Latin anthem to Cincinnati, which will be sung at the festival.

“It’s about Latinos coming to Cincinnati, adopting it as their city, and how much they appreciate it,” Comber said. “We hope it’s something the Latino community will embrace and share with the community at large. We’re always trying to get the Latino and Greater Cincinnati communities to get to know one another better, and this is just one more attempt at doing that.”

As for the attendee demographics, Comber said the festival is consistently 50/50 (50 percent Latino and 50 percent non-Latino). He said the Fountain Square location can make the festival seem both welcoming and vulnerable, but he is not anticipating any blowback from the recent controversies over illegal immigration and the ascendancy of Donald Trump as president.

“This the first time that (illegal immigration) has been an issue,” he said. “We’re not expecting any trouble. We don’t think the festival’s atmosphere will be conducive to that kind of reaction. (A mixed crowd) has been our goal from day one. I came to the U.S. as a young man and am a very proud American citizen.”


HOW TO GO

What: Cincy-Cinco

Where: Fountain Square, 520 Vine St., Cincinnati

When: May 5-7, 7-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, and noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: No admission cost

More Info: 513-232-4117 or www.cincy-cinco.com

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