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CALA's Cumbia Festival Takes Over Civic Space Park

You'll often hear about how the Arizona State University downtown campus has revitalized downtown Phoenix, but you rarely hear credit given to the other demographic whose growing presence in the area has thrived: Latinos. From gourmet cuisine to hair salons that become art galleries at night, there's a sense of local entrepreneurship that is embracing Latino culture. Phoenix's downtown is finally becoming truly diverse.

With the purpose of creating "shared arts experiences that encourage cultural understanding between people of the Americas," the CALA (Artistic Celebration of the Americas) Alliance has made it its mission to celebrate Latino art. Since 2011, the organization puts together the CALA Alliance International Festival, showcasing a wide array of performers, lecturers, artists, and chefs who embrace their Latino roots at the core of their artistic expression.

This year the focus of the festival is on the history and evolution of cumbia music.

See also: Palabra Collective Is the Best Place in Phoenix to Hear Cumbia

Civic Space Park will host the two-day event happening this weekend (Friday, November 7, and Saturday, November 8). The first event will take place on Friday with the CALA Lab, which will feature a discussion on the food and wine movements from Baja California. The panel will be moderated by New York Times contributor and University of Southern California professor Josh Kun. A ticket will be required for admission to this panel.

All the events on Saturday will be free admission, which is great news particularly to music lovers. CALA has curated a distinguished lineup of performers celebrating cumbia on the main stage. Headlining the stage will be renowned producer Camilo Lara, the brain behind Mexican Institute of Sound. Lara isn't a stranger to Arizona. This will be the third time this year Lara makes the trip from Mexico City to Arizona to perform, certainly a beloved name in the desert.

"Despite all the controversy and non-progressive reputation Arizona has, I find it truly inspiring and feel it's becoming more welcoming... so much I wouldn't mind living here at some point," says Lara, who just announced a star-studded album with fellow cumbia producer Toy Selectah -- an album with more than 80 guests that go from Boy George and Kool A.D., to Mariachi El Bronx and Ana Barbara.

Also on stage will be Tucson's increasingly popular Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta, who should seriously start looking into real state here in Phoenix --it seems they're here at least once a month (and they'll be here next week as well for Los Dias de la Crescent on Saturday, November 15). We are not complaining, they're a blast every single time. A performer from last year's festival, DJ Lengua, will bring his prolific set of cumbia mixes, which are known for blending the traditional genres with the chaos of his hometown metropolis, Los Angeles.

Lesser known, and performing in Arizona for the very first time, is ChuCha Santamaria y Usted. This is the project by Puerto Rican musician and visual artist Sofia Cordova. ChuCha acquired visibility in hipster culture a few years ago with her tropical-electro hit "Fiebre Tropical," which prompted comparisons to Santigold and M.I.A.

Cumbia cannot be contained and shut down at 10 p.m. And so CALA will keep the party going at Palabra Collective (also downtown), which we've declared is the best place in Phoenix to hear cumbia. While Civic Space Park will showcase the genre in a very open environment, Palabra's official afterparty (featuring Camilo Lara, DJ Lengua, DJ Melo, and El Nico) will be more intimate -- which typically gets the better dance moves out of many of us.

Schedule, Saturday, November 8, at Civic Space Park: 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: DJ Juan Camaney 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.: ChuCha Santamaria 6:15 p.m. - 7 p.m.: DJ Lengua 7:15 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.: Sergio Mendoza y la Orkestra 8:45 p.m. - 10 p.m.: Camilo Lara - Mexican Institute of Sound 10 p.m. - 2 a.m.: CALA ¡Cumbia! at Palabra Collective

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