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This LA Festival Celebrates the Guatemalan Community With Music, Food and Art

Lafayette Park will become the center of Central American culture and music this weekend with one of the biggest free festivals in the city coming to the Westlake District on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26-27.

The Festival Chapín Los Angeles is set to attract more than 40,000 people to celebrate the city’s Guatemalan community.

“The idea is bridge our community here in Southern California with our roots in Guatemala and to try to bring a little of Guatemala to Los Angeles,” said Geovanni Bautista, coordinator of the festival.

People of the Central American country, which was at the core of the ancient and sophisticated Maya civilization, proudly identify themselves as Chapines. According to Bautista, there are about one million Guatemalans in California, with the majority of the population living in L.A.

So for the past few years the culture, historic folklore, music and unique arts of the country  has been celebrated at this festival.

Here’s what you can expect at the annual Festival Chapín Los Angeles.

Music from the homeland

Several bands are traveling from Guatemala to get the party going for the weekend celebration. The marimba, an instrument made of wooden bars and similar to the xylophone, is the national instrument of Guatemala, Bautista said. It will be well represented at the festival with a performance by Marimba Orquesta “Alegría Chapina.” Things will only get more energetic from there with sets by cumbia and rock acts from Guatemala plus a culturally rich performance by Ballet Folklórico del Inguat.

Guatemalan grub

The food of Guatemala also takes center stage at this festival with more than a dozen vendors cooking traditional fare that’s a bit different from what most people in L.A. might be familiar with. So get ready to try things like a garnacha, which is made from fried corn tortillas and ground beef topped with refried beans, shredded cabbage, cheese, and other good stuff. Think of it like a Mexican sope but on a bit thinner tortilla and a bit crispier. And definitely try the shucos, which are the Guatemalan version of hot dogs topped with guacamole and shredded pickled cabbage.

Artful style

Guatemala is well known for its indigenous artisans who create brightly colored handmade clothing and other items inspired by their Mayan past. The festival will include an artisan village where people will be able to but everything from shirts to dresses to purses to toys and hats hand made by artists in Guatemala and imported to L.A. for the event. “These are all really original items,” Bautista said.