MERIDEN — The annual Latino Expo on the Meriden Green Sunday featured music, food and a celebration of Latino culture — all while supporting locally owned businesses.
Salsa music played during the all-day event as community members enjoyed traditional Latino dishes served by El Rincon Boricua and El Jibarito Take Out.
Puerto Rican flags were mounted above the businesses’ tents and patrons wore shirts emblazoned with the Puerto Rican flag as they ate food and listened to salsa music.
Organizer Pedro Valentin founded the event in 2018 and continued it in 2019, but had to cancel last year due to the pandemic. Valentin said he is excited for future expos and looks forward to attracting more sponsors.
Ice cream was available with flavors such as passion fruit, coconut and tamarindo.
New Haven resident Elena Rodriguez, 53, migrated from Puerto Rico in 1987. She said attending such events helped her adjust to mainland culture while celebrating her Puerto Rican heritage.
“It’s my blood,” Rodriguez said. “I enjoy these types of events. I enjoy the music, the food, the people. It reminds me of home.”
Catillo’s Souvenir Shop sold a variety of Puerto Rican items. Many were traditional pieces, including el guiro, which is a Latino American percussion instrument. Bracelets, hats, key chains, domino tables, paintings and Puerto Rican flags were also popular.
Meriden resident Astrid Ortega, born in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, said she enjoyed the food from El Rincon Boricua as she sat with her family listening to the music.
“I think this is great, I am a Puerto Rican and to me, this is nice and the food was good,” she said. “I am looking forward to trying more food as well.”
El Rincon Boricua opened earlier this year at 81 W. Main St.
One of the highlights was a caravan of Jeeps that passed by the event playing Spanish music.
Businesses such as Juniper Homecare and Loyalty Insurance attended the event.
El Jibarito, which opened nine months ago at 620 E. Main St., served what is known as “antojitos” — dishes such as alcapurias, empanadillas and pinchos.
Waterbury residents Ricky Verdejo and Josh Almodovar said they eat regularly at El Jibarito and decided to show support for the Latino community.
“The event has been good,” Verdejo said. “We heard about this event from one of the workers and stopped by.”
El Rincon Boricua served pina coladas, typical Puerto Rican cuisine and desserts such as quesitos and guava pastries.