A flourish of dancers in Panama hats and flowing white dresses swayed to a Latin beat yesterday at the opening of Baltimore's 22nd annual Hispanic Festival.
Hundreds of people took advantage of the afternoon sun to browse through colorful wares or sit by the fountains in Hopkins Plaza, sipping sangria and watching the Panama Folklore Group perform.
"I love the dancing and the music," said Geraldine Bachman, who was attending the two-day festival for her first time. "It reminds me of home."
The 19-year-old moved to Reisterstown from Ecuador two years ago, after marrying Baltimore native Michael Bachman. They went to the festival yesterday with their 14-month-old daughter, Daniela, and Mr. Bachman's mother, Gail Bachman, to eat fried plantains, and pork prepared with lentils.
At booths around the plaza, groups offered dishes from Guatemala and a number of other countries, including Spain and Panama, so the options were many: tamales; choriban, a bread grilled with salsa; ceviche, raw fish with lemons, onions and spices; and chiles rellenos, green peppers stuffed with pork or beef and vegetables in a wine and caper sauce.
People of all ages and ethnicities sampled the food and danced in the plaza.
"The entertainment is just as important as the food," said Carmen Nieves, president of the Federation of Hispanic Organizations of Baltimore, which sponsored the event. "Music and dancing are very popular in Central and South America."
Henry G. Cisneros, U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, visited briefly with festivalgoers.
Cisneros urged immigrants to be proud of their roots and their new country.
Festivities will continue in Hopkins Plaza from noon to 9 p.m. today. An outdoor Mass will be celebrated there at 11 a.m.
"We host this festival every year because we find it's the best way to educate people about the Hispanic community," Nieves said. "We want people to know that though we all speak the same language, we come from 21 different countries -- each with its own customs, food and music."
Pub Date: 8/11/96