A music group performs on stage
Credit: Courtesy of Houston Latin Fest

For many, Latin Fest signals a big party spotlighting Mexico. Others realize that Latin Fest extends far beyond Texas’ southern border neighbor. Still, when people think of this particular culture, Black people are not what comes to mind, even though the Afro-Latinx U.S. population includes several million who society would classify racially as Black.

That fact is one of the reasons why Raúl Orlando Edwards is hyped about this year’s Latin Fest, the 10th annual which will take place on Sunday, April 23 from 1 p.m.–10 p.m. at Crown Festival Park, 18355 Southwest Freeway, Sugar Land, Texas 77479.

“This year’s Houston Latin Fest is important to me because it is a reflection of my vision of presenting all aspects of Latin culture with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Edwards, who has been featured by media both local (Defender, Chronicle) and national (NBC Nightly News) for his work in Houston’s Afro-Latinx art scene.

Edwards, founder of the non-profit Foundation for Latin American Arts and Strictly Street Salsa, Houston’s first salsa studio, sees Latin Fest as important to the city’s history and current reality.

“Latin Fest embodies the most diverse title our city has in the areas of representation of the many cultures that make up our city. In this case, we focus on showcasing not one but as many as possible countries in Latin America.”

And there are many.

According to Edwards, scholar Dr. Will Guzman and poet/author and educator Jasminne Mendez, a Dominican American, the Latinx community nationally and locally is extensive.

According to Guzmán, a former Prairie View A&M University professor, most Afro-Latinx in the US hail from the Caribbean, particularly The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico.

However, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama are the countries of origin for most of Houston’s Afro-Latinx residents.

“Currently, there are nearly three million people in the U.S. who self-identify as Afro-Latinx, and some suspect the numbers are much higher, particularly in places such as Afro-Brazilians in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, Afro-Mexicans in California and North Carolina, Afro-Puerto Ricans in Kissimmee and Orlando, Florida, and Afro-Dominicans in Washington Heights, Boston and Orlando,” Guzman said.

Edwards views Houston’s Latin Fest as an opportunity to bring those various local Latinx communities together, along with others.

“The event is a citywide celebration of the people who live in it but in addition, it serves as a platform of unity were all are important and welcome,” Edwards shared.

For Mendez, the welcoming spirit of the festival is important, especially since she said the first words that come to mind when she hears the phrase ‘Houston’s Afro-Latinx community’ are “ignored and overlooked.”

“For so long, when it came to things like Hispanic (or Latinx) Heritage Month or even Black History Month, so much of our experiences and stories we’re just not a part of the conversation,” Mendez said.

This year’s Latin Fest is advertising itself in a way that looks to make all Latinx members, whether Brown or Black, feel welcomed.

Event artists include legendary salsa artist Tony Vega; two-time Latin Grammy Award winner Lenier; merengue icon Fulanito; Aldo Tributo; Mariachi Origen y Tradicion; Samba Houston and many other local and international artists.

According to advertisements, Edwards and Mendez’s hopes for the event will be fulfilled, as a press release states “Unlike other festivals that promote a singular country or areas of the culture, the Houston Latin Fest’s specific mission has and continues to be, promoting all countries in Latin culture: ‘El Festival de Todos los Latinos’ (The Festival for all Latins’). Diversity, unity, inclusion, education, fun and representation are important areas of the event and on this organizational 10-year milestone, we continue on expanding those areas in the Greater Houston Area and beyond.”

Admission is free with courtesy tickets which can be found by checking the website: https://theofficialhoustonlatinfest.com/. Pre-sale tickets are $12. Children under 12 enter for free.

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...