Friday, July 19, 2013

Milwaukee's First Carnival Celebration Kicks Off with a Week of Activities

By Evan Rytlewski
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Milwaukee’s Juan Carlos Ruiz would like you to know that he is not a particularly big fan of tortillas. “I’m from Peru, so when my friends offer me tortillas, they think that I’m happy,” he explains. “But in Peru, we don’t eat many tortillas. We have 2,500 types of potatoes, so our meals are very much built around potatoes and bread.”

Ruiz’s starch preferences may seem trivial, but constantly being offered tortillas that he didn’t want made him realize how uninformed many people are about different Latin cultures. “I realized that even in the Latino community, and in the greater Milwaukee community, there’s a lot of room to educate people about the differences in Latino communities,” he explains. “So I wanted to come up with something that would help educate people, while making people happy.”

What he came up with was a Milwaukee version of the traditional Carnival, a festivity involving parades and marks celebrated around the world. “In the south we celebrate Carnival in February, but here it’s winter in February, so we choose the day of our carnival to be July 27,” he said. “On that day, we’re going to have a large parade to present the carnival traditions and costumes from different countries. We also decided to create a week of activities leading up to it.”

Those activities are detailed on the event’s website, milwaukeelatinocarnival.com. On Monday, there will be a storytelling event and tequila tasting at the Wherehouse, 818 S. Water St. On Tuesday, there will be mask and headdress-making stations at the playground at 2110 W. Scoot St. On Wednesday, some of the large marks from the parade will be revealed. On Thursday, there will be a DJ contest at the Wherehouse, and on Friday, there will be a Latino Gallery Night tour.

The main event begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, when the grand parade marches down National Ave. beginning at 11th Street, heading east toward the Wherehouse, where there will be live music, dancing, DJs and prizes at a free outdoor celebration.

“It will be very family friendly,” Ruiz says. “We’re going to have bouncy houses and music for all ages, as well as food from many different countries. It’s going to be a huge event.”
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