A Greek festival in a Latino area?
As ethnic stereotypes go, it's not such a bad one: More than 50 years later, Anthony Quinn's portrayal of earthy, irrepressible Alexis Zorba, a.k.a. Zorba the Greek, remains a revered embodiment of the Greek lust for life. And each year, the organizers of the L.A. Greek Fest try to bring a touch of that "Zorba spirit" to their celebration, reports Elina Shatkin.
Just as Quinn was a Mexican American actor portraying a Greek character, the once heavily Greek area surrounding the festival's site, St. Sophia’s Cathedral at Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, is nearly 90% Latino. In 1999 the neighborhood was designated by the city as the Byzantine-Latino Quarter. Growing over the last 10 years from a humble church social, the festival is expected to draw 5,000 to 7,000 people each day, [festival co-producer Ted] Pastras says. To create an event that's inclusive of the overall neighborhood, the festival will feature a "Margaritaville" booth as well as evening salsa performances by Pablo Mendez and Charanga Latina. "In the beginning it was viewed as very unorthodox to fuse two cultures like that, but after the first couple years, the concept took hold. People loved the whole idea," Pastras says.
-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City
Photo: Young dancers make like Zorba at an earlier L.A. Greek Fest. Credit: L.A. Greek Fest.