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Latinos know how to party
Each year Sandown hosts a colourful and vibrant celebration of music, dancing, craft, food and fiesta. One weekend in September belongs to The Chilean and Latin American September Festival, a family day with something of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents.
Origins of the festival have its roots in the Chilean community and the opening ceremony celebrates Chilean Independence Day, which falls on 18 September. It marks the day Chile became independent of the Spaniards in 1810. El Salvador's National Day and that of other Latin American countries will also be celebrated during the weekend.
Because so many Latin American cultures are represented at the event, there's no need to travel to Central and South America to experience the spirit of Latin rhythms and a typical festival imbued with the energy, colour and splendour of a Latin American party. Many will be wearing their national dress and you'll see elegant and spectacular dance costumes on stage.
Latin culture is a diverse mix of Indigenous Central and South America with influences from the Spanish, Portuguese, French and the Africans who survived the trans-atlantic slave trade. All contribute to the uniqueness of lively rhythms and soulful music that is Latin America. The richness from this cultural diversity must be experienced and we are lucky enough to have it happen right here in Melbourne.
There will be many performance stages dotted around Sandown with forty-seven different music and dance groups playing hip swaying tempo. Combined they will perform over forty hours of music including Cuecas, Salsa, Merengue, Cha Cha, Bachata, Cumbria, Ragaeton, Peruvian music, Andean music, Cudan music, Mexican music and more. I don't think you will be able to keep your body still.
Each year there is a performance from Indigenous Australians at the festival. The invitation to perform is a respectful gesture from the Latin American community to thank the greater Australian Community for the opportunity to place Latin America's culture on display. This year it's the nationally popular and respected singer, songwriter Archie Roach. His live shows have been described as 'infused with good doses of uplifting gospel and soul stirrings'. Having Archie Roach perform at the festival also allows Latin Americans to experience and appreciate Australian music.
So what's going to help you sustain your energy all weekend? Traditional Latin American food of course. You may be more critical of your local Mexican after eating at this festival and you won't want to go back to Taco Bills again or Nandos for that matter.
Influences in Latin American food are reflective of the same influences as its music, namely African and European cuisine and spices, yet each Latin American country has interpreted these influences in their own individual way, creating their own tapestry of flavours. Latin American food predominantly consists of meat, corn, potatoes and spices. Even though meat is a major ingredient in most dishes there is a lot on offer for vegetarians as well.
A must try are the Chilean Empanadas, a pie filled with either meat or a sweet filling. Also try Completes - Chilean Hotdogs. Chile and Peru both make amazing Ceviche - pickled raw fish marinated in lemon and served with condiments and Anticuchos - skewed meat and vegetables.
Empanadas - Wikipedia
Ceviche - Wikipedia
Mote con huesillos - Wikipedia
Mote con huesillos is a typical Chilean non alcoholic summer drink of sweet clear nectar like liquid made with dried peaches (huesillos) cooked in sugar, water and cinnamon. Once cooled it is mixed with fresh cooked husked wheat (mote).
You will find well known Mexican tortillas, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and tacos.
El Salvadorian specialities like Pupusas - a tortilla filled with a blend of cheese, meat and beans. Tamales - cornflour and seasoned chicken mix wrapped and cooked in banana leaves.
Pupusas - Wikipedia
Tamales - Wikipedia
Columbian and Venezuelan Arepas - a flat bread made of ground maize served with various accompaniments.
Arepas - Wikipedia
Dishes that cross the borders of several Latin American countries include Pescado Frito - fried fish, Churrasco - a large steak with fries, salad, fried egg and onion. Pastel del choclo - a sweetcorn pie. Humitas - a minced corn mixture with basil that's folded into corn leaves and steamed. Choripan - a hotdog roll with Chorizo and salad.
If you're a meat lover, I imagine you will be hanging around the Asado for most of the day. Asado is the famous Latin BBQ that respectfully uses as much of the animal as possible. It's where you are bound to find the well known Costillar de Chancho, a whole rack of pork spare ribs exquisitely roasted till the meat falls off the bone.
Once you've sampled a few mains its time to check out dessert.
Chilenitos, from Chile of course, firm pastry with a caramel (manjar) filling coated in meringue. Mani y confitadas, deliciously roasted sugar coated nuts and Alfajores, a biscuit made from cornflour with a caramel (manjar) filling and coated in icing sugar.
This list of foods is by no means exhaustive. You'll find loads more. Event information says no BYO and after reading that you can see why. Mains will average between $12 - $18.
If you can make your way past the dancing and eating for a while you will also find Latin American Art and Craft stalls. Traditional Andean crafts, earthenware, handcrafted woven pieces of tapestries, tops, jumpers, ponchos and worry dolls will all be available for purchase. There will be an Animal Farm, games and entertainment for the kids. Kind of like a mini Royal Melbourne Show.