Riis Park Hosts 1st Annual Cuban Festival

Cubans, Puerto Ricans or Mexicans…it just didn’t matter. It was a gorgeous day for a family festival. Families, friends, and the curious, along with many others enjoyed the gorgeous as well as extremely hot day at Riis Park for the 1st Annual Cuban Festival.

Guests of the festival were welcomed by many different flavors of Cuba as well as other parts of our grand city. The sounds of Havana on this day were big and it was a great taste of paradise.

I’ve only read about and seen pictures of Cuba but it has helped me confirm that as soon as those boarders open up, I’m definitely going to check it out. You could feel the pride of the Cuban people all around, even if you weren’t from Cuba.

Thumbnail image for Jorge Luis Perez, Jr., with his wife, Rafaela enjoying the fest with their 2 year old daughter, Nayeli Jaslene and 1 year old son, Jorge Luis Perez, III

The Perez family enjoy the music, food and fun at the Cuban Festival

Performances ranged from all forms. While walking to the stage I was greeted with a lesson from El Ritmo School of Latin Percussion. It was a lot of fun to see how quickly a lot of the folks took to the individual and personalized instruction they were getting FREE!!

Once El Ritmo hit the stage with a few of their students, they seemed like experts who quickly learned to beat bongos, play maracas as well as timbales and other instruments. I so wanted to play and wish I had time!!

Vive En Forma spoke of the importance of exercise and a proper diet. The conducted screenings and talked with families about the importance of a good diet and exercise.

Chicago Latin Fitness Zumba sisters Patricia Martha and Marcela Montes led a free Zumba lesson for the crowd. Young and old festival goers alike loved the lesson they were given and even joined in. Hyping and leading the steps on the ground for the audience was Rachelle Moore who also teaches Zumba.

Live performances throughout the weekend also included, Grammy winner Albita Rodriguez, Rey Ruiz and Anissa Gathers of “Celia Cruz the Musical” and many others.

Cesar Rolan, Bassline Inc., and the entire committee and organizers deserve a round of applause for the event that I’m sure was more difficult to pull off than most. It was a true success as the crowd of smiling faces, happy children and bailando adults can attest to.

The neighborhood as well as many others enjoyed the festival and there was a lot of solidarity in the air. It was a safe and fun environment. I’m sure all will be excited to see what comes next year as this event is sure to grow to phenomenal proportions.

Photos courtesy of Carmen C. Rivera and Cesar Rolan

Correction: I mistakenly was under the impression that this was the 2nd Festival but was informed it was actually the 1st Cuban Festival of its kind in Chicago! I apologize for the error but was excited to note the festival’s success…Now, I’m even more impressed at it has set the bar even higher for next year. BRAVO!!


Extra Newspaper Celebrates 30 Years

Extra Bilingual Newspaper recently celebrated their 30th Anniversary at Meze Tapas Lounge. It was my first Extra Newspaper event and certainly worth the wait.

I finally, after 30 years, met the Publisher of the paper. She is the woman of wonders behind the publication who not only changed the look of newspapers in Chicago but also helped guide me to the business.  

Extra Newspaper 30th Anniversary Celebration

Extra Newspaper Celebrates 30th Anniversary Photo courtesy of Extra Newspaper – Abel Arciniega

Mila Tellez, Publisher, and quite amazingly owner of the paper since its first issue debuted on July 10, 1980 was a strong driving force in my young life. I hope she realizes she inspired an 8 year old not only the value of hard work, but the love and desire to be a real newspaper girl.

When Extra opened its doors to be the first of its kind in Chicago, the first bi-lingual newspaper in our neighborhood, it was a big deal. I remember after that first issue came out like it was yesterday.

It came as no surprise, since the office was located not far from my childhood home on North Avenue and Springfield, that the newspaper would scour the neighborhood for kids of my age group to deliver the newspaper each week.

I was one of the lucky ones that would receive a stack of fresh newspapers at my door ready to rubber band and deliver for the Wednesday morning schedule each week. I was proud and paid a whopping $7.00 per week for it!! I loved it and still talk about how it was my very first job.

Extra not only gave me the desire to work, it especially helped me understand newspapers at a very young age when kids my age were just hanging out and playing outside. It also helped me learn to brush up on my Spanish. As a mixed Puerto Rican child growing up in Humboldt Park I learned early, since the newspaper was bilingual, I certainly needed to become better versed in my language. It was a no brainer and I loved comparing each story, in Spanish and English to check my Spanish reading and writing skills.

I am proud to say that Extra was one of the few doors that led me to love newspapers and my career at the Tribune. It was truly one of the driving forces that helped me begin my path to a long love for a career in multi-media which I hope never ends.

The anniversary party was full of others like myself that had wonderful stories of Extra’s inception and were still proud to be associated with the publication. From local politicans to Mayor Richard M. Daley himself, Extra certainly made an impression of most everyone it reached then and now.

Extra has not only made a place for itself in the Humboldt Park community since 1980, it has certainly carved it’s place within the city. It has paved the way for other leading publications in the city like Hoy, along with other community and language specific newspapers. 

I wish Extra the amazing newspaper that it is, its staff and the youth of future newspaper lovers like myself, many, many more years of continued success and prosperity.

Photos courtesy of Extra Newspaper photographer Julieta Alvarez and Jacinto Ariza
All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Sanz Effect!

Alejandro Sanz quickly stopped in Chicago during his “Paraiso Express Tour” to perform at the Rosemont Theater to a wide variety of fans of every age and culture.

Alejandro Sanz in concert at Rosemont Theater

Alejandro Sanz performs in Chicago at Rosemont Theater Photo courtesy of Dean Paul

Alejandro immediately lit up the stage with not only his presence but also the magnificently directed light show that ensued during the entire performance. His voice, just like when I listen to him at home, was not only mesmerizing but just as distinct. He is quite the performer and showed he still has the power to hold his own at his show.

I especially enjoyed one of his fun moments with the his audience as he took time to poke fun at one of his band members. He playfully accused the audience of liking the pianist more than himself…I was taken aback by his commentary but it was a pleasant banter as I know he loves his fans and it was a playful and charming touch. I must admit, just for the record, the accusation was accurate as the pianist was simply adorable!

Alejandro seemed to have fun with the show and he gave us some classics as well as gracing us with a few of his new hits, including “Looking for Paradise”.

It was a nice relaxed show one not to miss during this tour. I can’t wait to see what’s next with Alejandro!! I hope he returns to Chicago soon.

Photos courtesy of Photos by Dean Paul of Smart Chic Media; www.deanpaulcreative.com

Café Media's Fiesta en Blanco


Café Media, parent company of Café Latino Lifestyle Magazine, hosted their Annual White Party and it was the party to be at on a beautiful July evening in the Chi!!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CAFE12_COV1(200).JPG

Café Magazine’s current issue – AVAILABLE NOW!!!

The Café White Party, which was held at Gallery 1028, was not only the appropriate venue, as the very first couple of rooms upon entry were all WHITE, but it was just the right fit and fun for the gigantic amount of “Cafeteros” that would soon be in line to gain entry into the gala. It was to me, one of the coolest parties of the summer…and I’ve been to some really cool ones.

Specialty drinks flowed, people gathered, friends met, new ones were made, networking happened and most importantly…all enjoyed showing off their summer best.

Rick Mangram, of “Hot on Salsa” and got the party started with his smooth moves on the dance floor– sampling Salsa and Merengue it’s easy to see why he does what he does– and with style! It was fun to watch.

TV monitors and laptops were set up so you could explore Café’s website and PNC Bank hosted a lounge area as well. It was an event that not only kept you in good conversation but kept you up to speed with its purpose. The magazine and its newest issue. 

Julian Posada, President and Publisher of Café Media, always seems nervous to me when he holds a party, like no one will show up. HA!! He doesn’t fully realize his loyal “Cafeteros” will show up wherever Café sets up shop…I’m almost certain the Café  staff must’ve felt the true adoration and how much these people appreciate the efforts of the entire Café Media staff, not only with his party, but with the message through their publication.

All had a splendid time networking and enjoying the music and festivities for the evening. As always Café pulled off a cool event for a beautiful crowd.

Café’s newest issue is available now: http://www.cafemagazine.com/subscription/


PHENOMENAL photos courtesy of Steve Starr – http://www.stevestarrstudios.com