Fiesta Latina 

La Caravana throws a pan-American party con mucho sabor

I pledge allegiance to America. I mean all the Americas. I’m talking about the Western Hemisphere, from lichen growing on windswept rocks in Tierra del Fuego to the wolverines prowling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is my home, and these are all my people, including all the trees and rocks and left-wing guerrillas and plastic surgeons and even the psycho-snowboarders at Snowbowl.

Everyone in the Americas shares the experience of living in the wake of the uninvited arrival of the Europeans. This common, unifying destiny has manifested into a spectrum of cultural and physical diversity, from ice hockey to the Panama Canal to Pablo Neruda. Despite this bewildering range of American possibility, it is all home to me.

And one of the great things about Missoula is the level of awareness and connection to other parts of America that you find here. We may be farther away than BFE, we may not even be on most maps, and our street signs are only in English, but the pulse of America here is strong. They may not call our fair state the northernmost state in Latin America, but that doesn’t mean our corazones don’t gustan our salsa con picante.

Which brings me to my point: La Caravana Arcoiris Para la Paz, and their upcoming pan Salsa-lactic, Latin-cream-o-ramic meltdown, Rumba por la paz, scheduled to attain critical mass this Saturday night, backstage at the University Theatre.

Backstage at the University Theatre, you ask? An unusual place for a party, no?

Not really. Not when you consider that many of the best parties in history have been backstage. And don’t think for a minute that the stage won’t be put to use, either. La Caravana Arcoiris is a traveling performance group based in Missoula whose three buses and 500-person performance tent have made a lot of tracks in North and South America (i.e., America). Wherever they go, they put on performances that include singing, dancing, acrobatics, storytelling, and all sorts of pan-American mish-mosh. They very much know how to use a stage. Rumor has it they will be joined this Saturday by Missoula’s hottest samba band, Sambgasm. There will also be a DJ mix of Salsa, Merengue, Mambo, Rumba, Samba, Reggae, and Hip-hop. Que sabrosa.

Rumba por la paz is a benefit to help La Caravana raise money for their next trip. Using their medium, La Caravana addresses issues such as human rights, cultural harmony, protection of the environment, and above all, peace. As they travel, they bring stories of success from one community to another, creating a circuit of communication, hope, and all sorts of other kinds of warm, fuzzy things. Caravana members come from more than 20 countries. They have been invited to perform by Mayan communities in Chiapas, the Kuna Indians in the Kuna Islands off of Panama, the Kogi Indians in Colombia, the barrios of Brazil, and 10,000 other places in America. If you ever wanted to run off with the circus, or just spend an evening living la vida loca, this is your time to act.

La Caravana Arcoiris Para la Paz performs Rumba por la paz this Saturday, Feb. 23 at 9 PM backstage at the University Theatre. $6. Call 243-2291.

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