¿Qué Bolá?

by G.T.

     This weekend, most people my age are attending Lollapalooza, an annual music festival here, in Chicago. I, on the other hand, attended Chicago’s first annual Festival Cubano, which was held this weekend in Riis Park. I just heard about it this past Thursday, and immediately planned to go to it. So I left around noon this morning and drove to Chicago.

     Upon finding out about Festival Cubano, I visited the website for the event, and saw that there were a dominoes tournament and chess tournament planned. I emailed one of the event coordinators, inquiring about the tournaments, and how to register for the competitions. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a response, but no matter, I wanted to go regardless. Like I said, this was Chicago’s first Cuban festival. Cuban culture is, by far, one of my favorite cultures.

     I arrived at Riis Park soon after a fairly mild rain storm, so the crowd was rather small. I anticipated a much larger crowd, after reading that thousands of people attended on Saturday. Really, I prefer smaller crowds, because there isn’t so much commotion and madness. The crowd was just enough to make for a jovial, lively atmosphere, though. There was a long line of tents where most of the vendors sold anything from jewelry, sunglasses, clothes, and all sorts of accessories bearing the Cuban flag. I bought two shirts and a Cuban flag.

     As for the food, there were several Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Mexican restaurants that had tents at the festival. One tent was roasting a pig that had to be at least four feet long. I waited damn near half an hour for the pig to finish cooking, along with a crowd of other hungry attendees. The pig roasting and rolling over the grill was quite an attraction. People were taking photos and gathering around, eagerly awaiting the pig to be sliced up and served with yuca and maduros. I got too impatient, and had already finished one piña colada, so I went to another tent, and bought a Cuban media noche sandwich. As well another piña colada. There had to have been a piña colada vendor every five or six tents along the path. It was a refreshing beverage in the heat of the afternoon.

     There were no concerts at the bandshell when I went to the festival. I assume that the musical guests performed in the evening. However, salsa was blaring from the speakers, and could be heard throughout the park. I ate my cuban sandwich and piña colada while sitting on a stone slab that bordered a pond. As I ate, I watched the ducks and listened to the salsa playing in the background. It was a fine day at the Festival Cubano. And before I left, I received a free Clamato baggie and a free clamato shot.