Thursday, July 14, 2005

Suisun City residents life of Puerto Rican cultural festival

From Vacaville Reporter // July 14, 2005

By Julie Kay/Staff Writer

Suisun City residents Victor and Linda Agosto are used to being the life of the party. People love to hear Victor, known as "Cafe," play timbales - a Caribbean drum set that includes tunable drums, cymbals and two cow bells. He might be playing with his band, "Orquestra Borinquen," or with a smattering of international musicians.

His wife, Linda, has a special talent for the soiree; when she gives the word, people readily converge.

So when a local Puerto Rican group dissolved several years ago, the Agostos - whose ancestry is Puerto Rican but who have spent most of their lives in the United States - stepped in easily to fill the gap.

"I said to Cafe, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we did a Puerto Rican picnic?' " Linda recalled. "He said, 'You put it together, and I'll make the music happen."'

Before their first Festival de la Isla - or island festival - in 2003, Linda worried about being able to sell all 300 tickets. The concern turned out to be needless.

"We had a thousand people come," Linda said.

The festival arrives for the third time this Saturday. The Agostos expect between 2,000 and 3,000 people to attend the event at Vacaville's Pena Adobe Park.

The daylong affair will feature Bay Area bands, including Orquestra Sensual and Conjunto Alegre, as well as acclaimed musician Ray de la Paz, who will be flying in from Puerto Rico. Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), pasteles (Puerto Rican tamales made of root plants and pork meat), and coco rico (coconut soda) will all be on hand.

"We're proud people," said Linda, of Puerto Ricans. "We tend to look for each other and unite."
"When we see each other we say 'Hey, boriqua,' "- an endearment for a fellow Puerto Rican, said Linda.

According to the U.S. Census, there were 2,801 Puerto Ricans living in Solano County in 2000.
But Puerto Ricans aren't the only ones who attend the festival, said Linda. The event attracts salsa lovers of all backgrounds and ethnicities, she said.

"What's great about it is it's a real mixture," said Linda. "It's mainly an older crowd and their families. We focus on keeping it very traditional and family oriented."
Linda said she never would have expected the event to grow to its current proportions.
"It was just an idea," she said, wonder in her voice.

Festival de la Isla will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Pena Adobe Park. Tickets for the event cost $10 in advance, or $15 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. The children's fun and games carnival costs $5.

To buy tickets or for more information, call the Agostos at 426-5591.

Julie Kay can be reached at

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