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Two San Jose Festivals Celebrate Salsa and Afro Latin Music in June

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Mixta Criolla performs at the Día de San Juan Salsa Fest in San Jose on June 21. (Courtesy of the artists)

A lot of Bay Area salsa nights feature DJs spinning the classics by Celia Cruz and Willie Colón, so it’s a rare treat to see not one but three high-caliber ensembles playing both traditional and original music. On June 21, the art space MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana) and San Jose Jazz are hosting a free event with just that: Día de San Juan Salsa Fest, a celebration of Puerto Rican culture in downtown San Jose.

The family-friendly festival features long-running ensembles that expertly combine African and Indigenous rhythms: Latin Rhythm Boys, Orquesta Taino and La Mixta Criolla, with additional support from DJ Leydis. Parque de los Pobladores, a small park nestled between MACLA, the Institute of Contemporary Art and San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, will become a dance floor when these acts perform from 5–10 p.m.

Día de San Juan Salsa Fest also promises family-friendly activities, dance lessons and Caribbean food.

It isn’t the only salsa offering coming up in San Jose this month. On June 10–14, the Queer Afro Latin Dance Festival arrives in San Jose, offering 60 gender-inclusive dance workshops in salsa and a variety of other genres, plus performances, discussions, dance parties and live salsa from Choco Orta and bachata from Johnny Sky. Unlike the Día de San Juan Salsa Fest, the Queer Afro Latin Dance Festival is ticketed, with pay-per-event options as well as festival passes for the entire week.

Whether you’re a dancer or head-nodding wallflower, there’s something to appreciate for Caribbean music lovers of all kinds during this wealth of cultural offerings in the South Bay.

Día de San Juan Salsa Fest takes place in Parque de los Pobladores in San Jose on June 21, 5–10 p.m. Free.


The Queer Afro Latin Dance Festival takes place June 10–14. Dance workshops start at $25; concert tickets start at $75.

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