Every time Alex Almodovar serves a plate of mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican fried dish, he gives more than just the food.
“I break down the culture of the food,” he said while serving heaps of empanadas and alcapurrias to eager eaters at the Hispanic Festival of Augusta on Friday night. “It is an experience.”
Almodovar’s church, the Oasis Church of Aiken, was one of many booths that set up at Augusta Common to celebrate Hispanic culture at the 20th annual festival Friday.
From bandanas and backpacks with different country’s names on them, to tacos, burritos and virgin piña coladas, hundreds of people from Augusta and the surrounding area were entertained by music, dancing, shopping and dining.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout,” said Octavio Arroyo, the vice president of the Asociación Cultural Hispanoamericana.
Arroyo said this was the first time in a few years they had the festival on a Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. He said the competition from the high school football games and the Greek Festival ,also downtown, had contributed to a lower-than-normal start.
As the sun set, however, more people filled the common.
This year, Arroyo had put out a dance floor on the grass because people would get upset they did not have somewhere to dance to the music, he said.
“Watching them wasn’t good enough,” he said with a laugh. “They wanted to participate.”
The festival continues from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today.
Arroyo said there will be Polynesian dancers today. Even though they are not considered a Latin people, they are an island culture, which Puerto Ricans can connect with, Arroyo said.
Manuel Marquez, 16, was listening to music and eating corn on the cob. He was wrapped in a Colombian flag, which he said helped show his pride for his culture.
“I was born in Augusta, but my parents are from Colombia,” he said. “Every year, we come to this festival and share our culture. It’s important to us.”
Behind a table of jewelry, Julissa DelGado, of Augusta, said this year was her first time participating in the festival. She said she wanted to be a part of it to represent her heritage.
Originally from Panama, DelGado said that she had been to a few Hispanic festivals but that Augusta’s was the most fun.
“The music is awesome,” she said.