Etnika Foundation presents music, dance and foods at first-ever Latin American Cuisine Celebration

September 03, 2013|By CHRIS COPLEY |
  • El Eden Restaurant will be the site of the Latin American Cuisine Celebration in Hagerstown. Patrons can taste cuisine from all regions of Latin America including this taco, rear, and pupusas.
Kevin G. Gilbert /

Hagerstown — Americans know different European countries specialize in different foods — pasta from Italy, sausages from Germany, sauces from France, fish and chips from Great Britain.

The same is true of countries in Central America and South America, said Hagers-town resident Liliana Robeson.

“We all have all different kinds of empanadas (filled, folded, fried dough). Also, different kind of tortillas, such as arepas (flatbreads) — these are more South American, like Venezuela and Colombia,” Robeson said. “Another traditional food from Peru and Chile is a corn cake filled with chicken and beef. From Argentina the traditional food is beef with a dressing called chimichurri (a zesty, herb sauce).”

To share the different Central and South American foods with Washington County residents, Robeson is organizing the inaugural Latin American Cuisine Celebration. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at El Eden Restaurant parking lot on the Dual Highway in Hagerstown. Admission is free. Foods will be available for purchase.


The festival will have foods from Colombia, Peru, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia in addition to Spain, the European country which colonized most of Central and South America and influenced the food and culture of Latin American countries.

Robeson hopes people can taste the difference among the different regional specialties.

“Here, they know mostly Mexican food,” Robeson said. “We are very different from Mexico, actually.”

Finding cooks who can cook traditional foods in Washington County has been a challenge. Robeson said she turned to area restaurants first, but then looked further.

“The people who (are) going to cook live in Washington Country but come from the different countries,” she said. “We have some restaurants we’re trying to (feature) — Panama Canal Restaurant is one. There’s another one that is Cuban, which is coming from Frederick (Md.). Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala is represented by El Eden restaurant. We don’t have (local) restaurants from Colombia, Argentina, countries like that.”

La Tolteca and El Ranchero are also participating.

Robeson emphasized that most of the dishes offered during the festival will not be spicy.

“We actually don’t use spicy food (in Central and South America). Just the Mexicans,” she said. “None of (the festival’s food) will be spicy. The only spicy food is some Mexican food.”

There will be music and dance performances throughout the festival, hosted by DJ Flako, from the Washington, D.C., area. There will be ethnic music and dance performances and Latin dance lessons. 

Many of the performances are courtesy of Etnika Foundation Folkloric Ballet, a Hagerstown-area organization that promotes cultural understanding. Robeson founded the organization.

“We have children and adults in Etnika. We’re going to showcase our foundation with dances,” she said. “We have an after-school program. We have performed in different places, here and in Montgomery County (Md.). We’re giving salsa, bachata lessons. And we’re going to perform one African dance.”

African foods and culture influenced many Latin American cultures, especially around the Caribbean Sea, Robeson said.

It all amounts to a full afternoon of Latin food, music and dance, Robeson said. That’s the idea, she said: To give those who come a taste of Latin American culture in several ways.

“The mission of Etnika is to preserve, promote and expand our heritage. Of course, food is one of them” Robeson said. “(We want) to give knowledge in Hagerstown through dances, through food, our music, our heritage.”

If you go ...        

WHAT: Latin American Cuisine Celebration

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7

WHERE: El Eden Restaurant, Subway and Boost parking lot, 1201 Dual Highway, Hagers-town

COST: Free admission; can purchase food

CONTACT: Call 202-492-0520 or email

MORE: Taste foods from Spain, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Performances by Etnika Foundation Folkloric Ballet, with free salsa and bachata lessons.

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