The Surrey Latin Festival Helps Teach the Public More About Latin America

The event brings together the community, and educates non-Hispanics about Latin culture, food and music

Members of the “Banda 604 Gran Union Latina” played tropical music at the Latin Surrey Festival. (Alejandra Mendoza)

Note: This article uses the terms “Latino” and “Hispanics” as gender-neutral labels for Spanish-speakers from Central and South America.

As someone who was born in Panama and is half Venezuelan, many people approach me and ask where I am from. I usually respond with, “I’m from Panama” but, there’s always a 98 per cent chance that the other person will reply with, “which part of Mexico is that in?”

After hearing that, my brain usually feels like it has been bombarded by a thousand nuclear weapons, forming small mushroom clouds that exit through my ears.

This is why cultural events like the Latin Surrey Festival are important. They teach people that there are more Hispanic countries other than Mexico, and it teaches them about the cultures and people that exist there.

Many Latinos seemed to be in high spirits at the festival, which was held in front of the Surrey City Hall on July 13 and 14. The event featured lots of performances, including a local Hispanic band called Banda 604 Gran Union Latina that played tropical music by musicians as young as 15, and a professional Maluma impersonator who sang the Colombian pop star’s latest hits. People danced and cheered all throughout the event.

There are 20 Spanish-speaking countries in the world, including Puerto Rico, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The fact that all of these countries speak the same language doesn’t mean they have the same cultural dresses, foods, or traditions.

Some words in Spanish might be pronounced the same way or even spelled the same way, but can have different meanings in different countries, and in each country, Spanish-speakers have different accents. For example, a Panamanian accent sounds different from the Colombian Spanish accent.

Spain, on the other hand, isn’t considered to be a Latin country. They were the ones who went to Latin America and brought over the Spanish language, which is considered to be a Romance language. Like many of the other countries, Spain has a unique Spanish accent, but none of the Latin American countries adopted it.

One thing that unites almost all Latin American countries is Salsa and Cumbia. Both are a type of music and dance which incorporates maracas, trumpets, saxophones, congas, bongo drums, guiro, accordion, and many more instruments. 

According to Babbel Magazine, there are more than 400 million Spanish speakers on the planet, which makes it the second-most spoken language worldwide right after Mandarin. 

The Surrey Latin festival helped to showcase emerging artists, Latin music, and food from various places. It also connected the local Latin community by creating the perfect ambiance for people to make meaningful connections.  

At the event, there were small booths from different countries. Mexico had a booth that sold Mexican candies. Peru had a booth displaying their famous alpaca jackets. Colombia also had a tent selling Colombian empanadas, which were made with cornflour dough and stuffed with beef, chicken, or cheese.

The festival was held in Surrey instead of Vancouver partially because Surrey was in need of more Latin-centric community events. Surrey is growing and changing in many positive ways, and a way to make the city even more welcoming is by encouraging multiculturalism. 

Events like the Surrey Latin Festival not only bring joy for Latinos, but also teach attendees who aren’t Hispanic about our culture and the different Latin countries within Central America and South America.