Tarpon Springs adds a dash of Latin spice to its traditional Greek culture with a new exhibit, "Latin American Folk Culture in Florida."
"We're celebrating Viva Florida 500," said Tina Bucuvalas, curator of arts and historical resources for the city. "We are calling attention to the Latino folk culture and all the beautiful things they've made and contributed."
It has been 500 years since Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and his convoy set foot on the state's east coast and declared the new land "la Florida." The state is commemorating the milestone with its Viva Florida initiative, a promotion of Florida's history, places and cultural achievements through hundreds of statewide events.
The Latin exhibit in the Center for Gulf Coast Folklife Gallery, which is inside the city Cultural Center, was produced by the city with funding from the Florida Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Arts' Folk and Traditional Arts Program.
The exhibition, which will continue through Nov. 27, showcases Hispanic influences such as traditional foods, crafts, decorative arts, religion, musical instruments, dance and games.
Notable items on display include:
• A shawl and blouse adorned with intricate handmade artwork.
• Cigars made in Tarpon Springs.
• A Cuban rocking chair.
• A sculptural painting depicting a humorous and lively scene in the Plaza de la Catedral in Havana, Cuba.
• A handmade Cuban flamenco dress.
• A bata drum — a double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass and covered with goat skin.
• Santeria religious clothing.
• Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar.
• Vibrant carnival masks.
• A decorative Cuban birdcage for captured songbirds.
On Friday at noon, visitors can bring a brown bag lunch as a panel of scholars shares insights into the Hispanic connection.
Gary Mormino of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg will talk about Ybor City. Ella Schmidt of USF will speak about Mexicans in Florida and especially in Clearwater. And José B. Fernández of the University of Central Florida will discuss Latin American immigration to Florida from the Spanish colonial period to the present.
Later Friday, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., a reception and a musical performance by Trio Amistad Huasteca will be held in the adjoining auditorium.
Admission is free. The Folklife Gallery and auditorium are located inside the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, 101 S Pinellas Ave.
Bucuvalas said Florida has a more diverse Latino population than other states, with Cubans comprising the majority of Hispanics, followed by Puerto Ricans and then Mexicans.
"We have more Caribbean-based Latinos than most other states," she said. "Florida is almost 25 percent Latino."
Also mark your calendars for Oct. 6 when a Gulf Coast Folklife Festival will take place at the Sponge Docks. It features an eclectic array of music and dance performances from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., culminating with a 6 p.m. Latin dance workshop followed by street dances to the tropical rhythms of Tampa's Orquesta Infinidad.
Also that day, visual displays of traditional textiles, instruments, ritual arts, costumes and more will be created and shown from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at [email protected]