Despite Savannah's fixation this time of year on all things Irish, our dear city has a sweet little secret: Nearly five percent of the population here is Hispanic.
Lisette Dominguez and Elkin Marin know how to shake that salsa jar and give Savannah a glimpse of how Latinos love to party. We’re invited to have a taste at two big upcoming events: Carnaval Family Day on March 22 and Gran Noche de Carnaval (for the adults) on March 29.
The idea is to blend the disparate populations here into one big, fun-loving bundle, inviting anyone who loves good food, saucy music, bright colors and, let’s face it, a closer look at beautiful Latin people, to join the celebration.
The Carnaval is an idea rich in history and comes from primarily Catholic countries where the days before Lent, that pre-Easter season of denial, prayer and intense spirituality, is spent celebrating with wild abandon.
Fantastic costumes, dancing in the streets, drenched in alcohol, and warmed by passion, you get its equal here in the U.S. with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. While Savannah is certainly no Rio or Buenos Aires, we can have our own little piece of the action with Marin Entertainment’s two highly anticipated festivals here.
Coach’s Corner at 3016 Victory Drive is the spot for the first big event, the Carnaval Family Day, on March 22 — only $5 at the door and kids under 16 enter free.
Antojo Latino, Savannah’s only Colombian restaurant, partners with Golden Corral and Jalapeños to bring you a selection of Latin and American food, and DJ Vaina Piano will provide the tunes to boogie to throughout the day, from noon-9 p.m.
I experienced a great Valentine’s evening at Antojo Latino with Vaina singing in his troubadour style and rich voice, so I can tell you personally you don’t want to miss it.
The current list of those who will have their own Carnaval Queens present to lead folkloric dances in full costume, is Peru, Panama, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic—don’t forget your camera- these dances are a truly beautiful sight!
The Carnaval Family Day is geared toward folks with kids, ostensibly Latin families, but the shout-out is actually to anyone who wants to have a good time and give the kids a fun and exciting afternoon, stuff them with good food and know that, when bedtime comes, they’ll drop to sleep with a smile upon their tired, but happy, little faces.
Yes, there will be the requisite bouncy house and even payasos, Spanish for ‘clowns’, to make you laugh. When they’re not dancing or begging for treats, the kids can also take advantage of some fine face-painting provided by yours truly—or give their creative sides an outing at the Art Table, where paints, crayons, glitter and all things artsy will be provided for their enjoyment. And yes, costumes are very welcome for both parents and kids—we don’t want to look too everyday when attending a Carnaval! Bring on the masks!
For the adults, the Gran Noche de Carnaval brings a night of dancing to the pulsing rhythms of salsa, merengue, bacchata and whatever else DJs Cheo and Ivan may dream up, and an invitation to the open bar.
Eat your dinner beforehand, because this is a dance-the-night-away kind of event where you can wear your sexiest clothes and tightest pants and feel right at home. If you’ve never been to a Latin dance party, now is the time to show up — Gran Noche de Carnaval is bound to be an eye-opener.
The Gran Noche event will be held at 2309 East Victory Drive at the American Legion Chatham, Post #36, both inside and out, $10 at the door, and again, costumes both bright and imaginative are welcome. Bring on those feathers and sequins, ladies (just make sure you can dance in those six-inch heels!).
The event begins at 8 pm, and expect it to last until they beg us to leave; my own experience has been that Latin parties, even the rather innocuous baby shower, can run far into the evening with plenty of food, liquor, laughter and dancing to last all night.
I thought I knew how to party until I married a Peruvian and was introduced into the Latin communities in Savannah and Miami—I found out quickly that an afternoon nap, before a long night of partying, was de rigueur!