Dia de San Juan: San Jose, CA. 7/18/2009.

Author:Varela, Jesse "Chuy"
 
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QUE DIA! It was a hot muggy July day in San Jose, CA. for the annual Dia de San Juan Festival. But the heat did not diminish the spirit or enthusiasm of the event that serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships. Instead, it helped to bring the day to a cultural boil in honor of St. John The Baptist, the patron saint of Puerto Rico.

Organized by the Western Region Puerto Rican Council, the celebration of Boricua pride took place for years at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds. It moved to the Shoreline Amp Theater in Mountain View, CA. where it lasted three years. The event relocated again this year, moving to the quaint History Park, a replica of a small western town located within the bigger Kelly Park in San Jose.

People came from inland areas like Bakersfield, Modesto, Sacramento and other spots around California to enjoy Puerto Rican food, music, arts, crafts and conversation about "La Isla del Encanto." Two stages presented music and dance, and vendors selling food had long lines all day. Traditional dishes and delicacies like pastelitos and alcapurrias emitted mouthwatering smells. The blue, red and white colors of the P.R. flag blended beautifully with the greenery of the park.

VIVA LA MUSICA! On the main stage the renowned cuatrista and bandleader Stanley Robley warmed up the celebration to open the day's events with some great jibaro music. DJ Coqui (Ivette Fuentes) had already set the mood spinning great salsa classics honoring Puerto Rico, as people staked their spots with lawn chairs and coolers on the grass and shady areas.

The discovery for me this year was the South Bay salsa band, Saboricua. Co-led by pianist/keyboardist Mike Ramos and singer Tony Acevedo, the band sizzled with old school salsa hits from P.R. and NYC. The band's sound is brass-heavy salsa dura and made up of some seasoned cats like conga drummer Ali "Choco" Lopez.

Mike is the son of Nick Ramos, a heavyweight percussionist in NYC during the pachanga and boogaloo days who recorded on the landmark Vladimir and His Orchestra: New Sound in Latin Jazz (Alegre Records). He grew up hearing the best Latin, jazz and classical music. He began piano studies as a boy and he has only gotten better in the jazz genre, citing influences like the...

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