September 26, 2020

BY CALEIGH MCLELLAND

In Canada, enjoying anything tropical is hard to do, and once September arrives, finding sun, surf and sand is an expensive plane ride away. But no need to fret because in this area the sounds, food and activities of the south can be found year-round.

Over the years, the area’s Latin community has become very prominent, and people from all backgrounds are getting involved in this vibrant and unique way of life.

Moses Ojong’s love of Latin dancing started back in his native country of Cameroon, but since moving to K-W, his appreciation for this style of dance has grown.

“I already had salsa in me,” Ojong said. “But my connection with the culture in Canada has made me love it more.”

This summer, the Latin community was out in full force with events taking place in K-W and all the way to Collingwood and Toronto.

K-W’s annual Multicultural Festival took place on June 23 and 24 where people enjoyed food, performances and stalls from many world cultures, including the tastes of El Salvador.

Salsa at Blue Mountain and Salsa on St. Clair are also popular annual events that happened in June and July that attracted many people from K-W.

And the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival once again filled the streets of Toronto for three weeks in July and August, where it was proven for the 45th year that this culture is truly international.

Most recently, the Hispanic and Latino Council of Guelph-Wellington hosted this year’s Guelph Latino Festival on Sept. 22 where the many sounds of Latin American music could be heard all night long.

“It is beneficial for all people to learn more about this culture,” said Ojong, who added that there are many social and physical advantages of “expanding one’s repertoire.”

Avid dancer, Craig Stephen, who often travels for work, agrees that Latin dancing is a great physical activity. He also recognizes the social benefits it offers anywhere he travels.

“There are lots of salsa clubs everywhere,” Stephen said, adding that clubs are intimidating at first if you are just a beginner.

Anyone can “expand their repertoire” by participating in some of the area’s many exciting weekly events, which offer food, music and dance lessons in intimate atmospheres, so there is no need to feel intimidated when dancing with the pros.

The true diversity of K-W’s Latin community can be seen every Thursday night at the Flying Dog in Waterloo where Cubans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans and even non-Latinos dance their country’s style of salsa, as well as bachata and merengue, two styles of dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. Dance lessons begin at 8:30.

Other ongoing events throughout the year include Salsa Tuesdays at The Guanaquita Restaurant, an authentic Salvadorian restaurant, which has only been open for four months, located at 273 King St. W. in Kitchener. Dance lessons begin at 8 p.m. every Tuesday night followed by social dancing to the sounds of salsa, bachata and merengue provided by DJ Carlos Gonzalez.

On the first Wednesday of every month, E-Bar in Guelph hosts the area’s longest-running salsa night with DJ Gury Gury who also hosts a salsa radio program every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on CFRU 93.3 FM.

Upcoming events can always be found on “KW Salsa Dancing Socials,” a Facebook group that keeps those interested up-to-date with what is going on in the Latin community.