Fiesta, Then Siesta 

Ay caramba! Union Station's Latin American Festival promises fun, food and frenzied footwork

The Latin American Festival taking over a hunk of Union Station this weekend is a huge, huge event, featuring food, music, dance, kids' activities, arts & crafts, a fashion show and a children's flag parade. There is so much going on at this celebration that 27 groups of musicians and dance troupes hailing from 12 different Latin American nations are taking part. It would be foolish to attempt to list them all. Here goes:

The music of DJ Daniel Davila, Mariachi Solo by Fernando Mendez, Chicago-based Fuerza y Alma, Ecuadorean ensemble Tushury, Homenaje Selena, and the Samba Bom Trio will warm up the throng. The dance companies performing include the Bolivian Society Dancers of St. Louis, Capoeira Angola Palmares, the Peruvian Dancers of St. Louis, the Panama American Folkloric Group, the Scott Air Force Base Folkloric Group, Workshop Salsa y Merengue Dance, Brazilian Girls and Workshop Samba, Latin American Dance of St. Louis, Tango Tango, Tango El Compas, Ecuadorian Folkloric Dance, the Wara Bolivian Dancers and the Peruvian Folkloric Dancers. Various other performances feature the Maya Group Mexico, Tommy Sutton, the Chile Group, La Bamba, the Atlantic Group, La Morena, the Santo Domingo Group, Latin Touch and Caribe Tropical.

Although the theme of this year's festival is Brazil and two Brazilian dances, the samba and the capoeira, representatives of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and Panama will also be present to entertain and feed the fairgoers and pique the interest of the kids. Visitors will also have the opportunity to salsa, merengue, rumba, samba and shake their booties in other exotic fashions as well.

St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon kicks off the event with a proclamation, and the reigning Cinco de Mayo Queen of St. Louis presides over the festivities. The event is sponsored by Arts & Treasures from Latin America, KDHX (88.1 FM), Aphrodite, the Missouri Arts Council, the St. Louis Public Library, KXEN (1010 AM), the Regional Arts Commission, Sysco and Nu Peru. Olé!

The Latin American Festival takes place from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 17 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. June 18 at the South Plaza of St. Louis Union Station, 20th & Market. Admission is free. Call 314-436-1666 for event times and more information.

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