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Hip-Hop And Salsa Make A Lively Dance
By Maria Padilla
April 11, 2001
This column was going to be about something else, until Gil Rodriguez sent an e-mail complaining about the Festival Medina, which took place Sunday in Orlando.
Rodriguez said this festival might be his last, because it had become "exclusively a Puerto Rican affair." He also thinks the music has become too black, with inclusion of hip-hop and rap music "to appease all the young Boricuas who suffer from identity crisis, the gang bangers and the wannabees which were evident and in numbers everywhere."
And lastly, Rodriguez, who is Cuban, predicts that if Puerto Ricans don't clean up their act, Rafael Medina, who is the Cuban owner of Medina's Grocery and Restaurant off Bumby Avenue and for whom the festival is named, might withdraw support of the event.
So many issues, so little space. However, Rodriguez está fuera de lugar -- is way off base. His e-mail is not really about Festival Medina, but a thinly disguised criticism of Puerto Ricans. He is uncomfortable being in the minority, he said.
It stands to reason that if Puerto Ricans make up more than 50 percent of the region's Hispanic community, you'll get a strong Puerto Rican presence at any Hispanic event in Central Florida.
It's also not unreasonable that many young Puerto Ricans like hip-hop or rap music. This genre is very popular precisely because all sorts of youths -- blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians -- have embraced it. Simply put, there aren't enough black kids in the nation to keep the musical style going.
Many Puerto Ricans in Orlando have migrated from the Northeast, specifically New York, where there is a sizable black population. Living in close proximity to blacks exposes you to other influences, styles and culture.
That is very unlike Miami, where blacks have the highest level of segregation from Hispanics, mostly Cubans, in all of Florida. It's higher even than New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, according to new census figures. In fact, the black-Hispanic segregation in Miami approaches that of Chicago, which is notorious for racial hostility.
This is not a pattern that Puerto Ricans in Orlando should seek to emulate.
Having also spent hours at Sunday's Festival Medina, I noticed different things. There were more non-Hispanic whites and blacks than in previous years, a sign that others are interested in Hispanic culture.
Different strains of music were blasted from all corners of Festival Park, where the annual fair takes place. People danced salsa and merengue and, yes, hip-hop and rap.
Families were clumped under palm trees and live oaks -- much as Puerto Ricans do on the island -- seeking respite from the burning sun.
It was a peaceful event.
And the food, ranging from codfish fritters, meat pies and shish kebab to rice and beans, was delicious. It's too bad Rodriguez didn't take note of these things.
Rodriguez doesn't speak for Rafael Medina, who has lived in Orlando for more than 30 years and is well known among Hispanics. Medina, who shook the hand of every vendor before the festival, can speak for himself.
"The people who predominate are Puerto Ricans. You can't throw a festival for 10 people," Medina said.
He vowed that the festival will carry his name as long as he lives. As for this being Rodriguez's last festival, Medina said, "For lack of one grain of rice, you cannot not cook a pot of rice."
Maria Padilla can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5162.