The air was heavy, the heat devouring every ounce of energy. Many stayed at home, clutching their AC units in hopes of gaining just a bit of relief from the relentless humidity. But thousands embraced the climate and thronged the New Haven Green to attend Fiestas Patronales, New Haven’s resurrected Puerto Rican Festival, sponsored by Puerto Ricans United.
Fiestas Patronales had an enveloping energy that made anyone who stepped onto the Green forget about the heat and instead become mesmerized by the colors, vibes, and most important, music. Thriving in the heat, festivalgoers could be seen sipping piña coladas with brightly colored umbrellas that danced in cleverly shaped coconut cups.
Fanning the stage against the backdrop of a Puerto Rican flag, the 11-piece Carlos Santiago y Su Momento Musical created an enthusiasm that flooded all in attendance. Carlos Santiago y Su Momento Musical is a local New Haven favorite that has performed at the Arts & Ideas Festival in prior years and opened multiple times for the Grammy-nominated legends Plena Libre, who also performed later that evening at the festival.
In its set, Carlos Santiago y Su Momento Musical combined the driving rhythms and hypnotic bass lines of salsa, merengue, and bachata. The melodies from the trumpet and saxophone echoed the driving beat, hitting their high notes and then falling through the scale, spinning sound and energy into a web of frenzy as the rhythm section hit grooves that stayed effortlessly in the pocket. The blend of the ensemble was so perfect that even when the upbeat tunes tilted toward chaos, the group stayed together flawlessly.
There were a bit of theatrics involved with the performance as well; all 11 men in the group wore brightly colored shirts in orange, red, and pink. The trumpet player twirled his instrument quickly through the air in between playing, and all on stage were constantly moving—mirroring the audience.
Small children, women, and even the police officers assigned to patrol the festival danced. Everyone knew the steps and moved like dance veterans. Smiles were everywhere and occasionally a unison cheer rose from the crowd in response to the activity on stage. True to Puerto Ricans United’s name, all were immersed in the unity, energy, and overall vibe, created in the heat by the music and the people.