Salsa y Salsas brings the spice | NevadaAppeal.com

Salsa y Salsas brings the spice

PETER THOMPSON

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Kayle Medina, 15, from left, Stephanie Arce, 13, and Isabel Gomez, 12, dance the 'Jesusita' during the Salsa y Salsas event at the Capitol Lawn on Saturday.

Bienvenido a Salsa y Salsas, Carson City’s premier celebration of Hispanic heritage and culture.

A canopy of dowdy gray-white clouds and stiff mountain winds couldn’t keep the 1,200 or so people who turned out at the Legislative Plaza on Carson Street on Saturday from enjoying the carnival-like atmosphere of history and promise.

This was as far from Tijuana or Juarez as anyone interested in Hispanic culture could get. The vibe was decidedly family. A non-alcoholic affair, Salsa y Salsas banned the booze yet still kept the crowd entertained.

Peppered with fiery foods, colorful dress and dance, and the mingling laughs of English and Spanish – not even a silly-string shooting clown named Moñito could ruin the sense of tradition.

“Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, it could’ve been much worse,” said director of Nevada Hispanic Services and event coordinator, Raquel Knecht, a second-generation American citizen whose family hails from Mexico.

Huddled together in sweatshirts with their hoods tied tight enough so they were barely able to function, Brian Spencer and Missy Knight of Reno listened to a mariachi band while sharing some tamales and washing them down with a pair of jarritos, Mexican soft drinks from Carnitos Dos Amigos of Reno, one of the many booths hawking Hispanic goods.

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Stained with “at least five different kinds of salsa,” Spencer’s gray sweatshirt is his homemade souvenir of the event. “I feel like dancing,” he said, starting to get up.

His girlfriend, Missy, did not, pulling Spencer back to the ground.

“It’s pretty chilly out today, but that salsa heats you up, like, 10 degrees,” he said.

Storm clouds or not, “it’s important that we maintain our culture and language while embracing our community,” Knecht said.

Hispanics are a fast-growing segment of the Carson City populace, and the country in general, but Knecht wanted to stress the importance of remembering they are by no means a simple demographic or a solid voting block able to be swayed by any politician.

“An event like today’s celebrates our unity,” Knecht said, “the things we have in common.”

It also kicked off Hispanic Heritage month, a mid-month holiday signed into law by President Reagan in the early 1980s.

Other highlights included Reno’s Ballet Folklorico Internacional’s traditional dancing and dress.

Vendors included Casa Ruiz from Sparks, where owner, Rudy, will put you into a pair of ostrich-skin boots for a mere $400, or if you like the ocean, a pair of boots made from manta rays.

Winner of the salsa contest was Joyce Tello, whose secret ingredients and closely guarded recipe will appear in a future edition of this paper.

Contact Peter Thompson at pthompson@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1215.

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