September 8, By Hannah Wulkan
A celebration of food and culture spanning the Americas and Asia is coming back to Jackson Heights for the fifth year running.
The 82nd Street Alliance is hosting the annual Viva la Comida festival on September 17th, with food representing countries in North, Central, and South America as well as Asia, and performances almost as diverse. It will run from noon to 7 p.m. along 82nd Street, between Roosevelt and Baxter Avenues.
“The festival has a great integration of everything that celebrates and represents the day-to-day culture of each country: food, music, and art,” said 82nd Street Partnership Executive Director Leslie Ramos.
Ramos said that the 82nd Street Partnership mostly represents brick and mortar establishments, but “street vendors are an important part of our food culture, and the two styles can complement each other, so we try to bring both together to celebrate culture through food.”
The food vendors at the festival will include several Jackson Heights-based operators and many from other boroughs.
Several favorite Jackson Heights vendors will be represented, including El Sabroso de Aracataca for Colombian Arepas, Potala Fresh Momo for Tibetian food, Ricas Botanas for Churros, and Oscar’s Chuzos & Elotes for Mexican food.
In addition to the wide variety of food vendors, the festival will feature several performances and art installations.
With a full stage for the second year in a row, performances will include bands performing music from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba.
La Cumbiamba eNeYé will perform traditional Colombian music, Latin jazz trio Yuca Seka will perform Cuban rhythms, OsClavelitos will perform “American Samba” music based on Brazilian beats, trio La Huerta will perform Latin love songs, and Yailin Garcia will sing classic Mariachis songs.
There will also be a poetry reading and calligraphy demonstration by Chinese civil rights activist and Nobel Prize in Literature nominee Huang Xiang.
Several art installation projects will round out the cultural offerings of the festival. One will be a series of murals that honors Hispanic Heritage Month, led by Sunnyside-based artist Mark Salinas.
The Cultural Center Barco de Papel will also host the painting of various household items in its exhibit, “Cultural Identity Through Everyday Objects.”
Ramos said that both exhibits will be open to public participation.
“This year the festival puts an emphasis on bringing together two of the biggest cultural groups in Queens by bringing the Latino and Asian communities together,” Ramos said.
“They have two very different cultures, different tastes and different rhythms, but I think they will come together for a great combination.”