Festival Betances is the jewel of July in the South End on most summers, but COVID-19 threatened its very existence this year, and now organizers are trying to keep the tradition alive by moving it online this year. IBA Executive Director Vanessa Calderon-Rosado said they will be doing the festival and the music online this July 18, at 7 p.m., in order not to break their long-time tradition. “We knew we wanted to do this now more than ever, but also adapt and shift to do it in a virtual format,” she said. “We are going to livestream it on Facebook and YouTube.
Now, not only will the public that usually gets to enjoy the Festival will be able to enjoy it, but it will transcend the physical space. It will move from the Plaza in the South End to the world.” The Festival attracts more than 3,000 people over a weekend each July to celebrate Puerto Rican heritage, and this year’s theme will ‘Reconnecting with Our Mainland.’ Having that many people in one place wasn’t going to work out in a COVID-19 world, but also they didn’t want to break the string of the longest-running Latin festival in New England.
“We realize this is not going to be the usual festival with the greased pole and children’s activities, but we have a few surprises still,” she said. The two musical acts, she said, will hearken back to tradition and will celebrate the African roots in Puerto Rican music and culture. The first musical act online will be Los Pleneros de Severo, who play traditional Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms.
“This music is lively and fun,” she said. “Hopefully, people will dance in their living rooms and maybe even on their couches.” The second act is a legend in Puerto Rican traditional music, Andres ‘El Jibaro’ Jimenez. The music gives credit to the traditional folkloric music of Puerto Rico, with ‘jibaro’ being one of the mountain people from Puerto Rico.
“No matter where people are, we hope this year’s Festival brings some joy, hope and fun to everyone’s homes,” she said. The fun starts at 7 p.m. and can be viewed on IBA’s Facebook page, or on IBA’s YouTube Channel.