Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Festival Makes a Big Splash at the Aquarium of the Pacific

The girls wowed the crowd with graceful twirls and pirouettes when they performed a Mexican folk dance to kick off the festivities this past weekend. The Baja Splash festival gave visitors a small taste of southern California's Latin culture.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is one of Long Beach’s biggest attractions, showcasing the diversity and uniqueness of the creatures of the pacific. In some respect, the Aquarium of the Pacific is like a microcosm of Long Beach—an area known for its diversity. In an effort to honor and celebrate that very thing, the Aquarium hosts several cultural festivals throughout the year. It ranges from African American festivals to Asian American festivals—covering many different cultures. This past weekend, the Aquarium held its 11th annual Baja Splash festival, educating the guests about Long Beach’s Hispanic culture as well as serenading them with music and entertaining them with dances.
“This is a very great opportunity for the people to learn about Long Beach and all the diversity of this great city,” said Joe Rivera, an employee who works for the Aquarium’s education department. “It’s cool, too, because people come from all over world to visit and see the fish and sharks, but when they see this, they are amazed.”
The Baja Splash festival showcased a wide variety of the communities across Long Beach and southern California including the cultures of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama, to name a few. Some of the shows and performances planned for the guests included Mexican folk dance to an Aztec march. There were also mariachi performances, and interactive music from Central and South America.
“The Hispanic culture is deep and rich, and I felt we did a great job including as much as it we can into these performances and shows,” said Rivera. The schedule of shows and performances run throughout the entire day.  
The festivities started off Saturday with a remarkable Mexican folk dance. The scene was amazing: the girls danced rhythmically in unison as their big, colorful dresses flowed in motion. Guests, who circled around them in front of the Aquarium’s famous big blue cavern tank, cheered and applauded as the girls danced away. Drowned by the music playing, guests also noticed the enthusiasm and passion on the girls faces.
“I was amazed by the performance of the girls. They danced so eloquently and moved with grace,” said Briana Beckham, a guest who also had a membership with the Aquarium. “It was amazing; I enjoyed it.”  
Another one of the more memorable performances was the Aztec dance. Called the Danza Azteca Cultural Ketzaliztil, the Aztecs danced their way along the entire first floor of the Aquarium. Guests found themselves up close and personal to the performance, which captivated them.
“Wow. Just wow,” said Danny Rangel, a visiting guest that day. “It was neat how the dancers danced their way around the Aquarium with their authentic costumes.”
With all the celebrations, shows and performances, the award ceremony may have been the most important. As part of the celebration, the Aquarium held its annual Hispanic Heritage Award to honor those who have helped the environment the past year. This year that award went to WILDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE for its dedication to helping the people and wildlife of California and Baja. This includes Baja’s Gulf of California, which is home to one-third of the world’s marine mammal species, over 170 seabird species, and over 900 fish species. Five of the seven species of endangered sea turtles rely on the Gulf of California, which is also home to animals found nowhere else in the world. WILDCOAST’s contribution to preserve this area of land goes unmeasured. Their dedication and vision to protect the Gulf of California captured the Aquarium’s attention (whom has two whole exhibits dedicated to the Gulf of California).
“I’m glad to be here to witness this great occasion. WILDCOAST deserved every bit of recognition for their efforts, and I’m just thankful for their contributions,” said Rivera.
 “It’s good to hear that there are people that still care about the environment,” said Beckham. “I love animals, so I try to help out as well. So, kudos to WILDCOAST.”
The Aquarium of the Pacific is a wonderful place to see the marine life and thousands of species that live in the pacific. Not only are the wonderful sea animals showcased, but the special cultures and communities surrounding Long Beach and southern California are also showcased in the form of festivals. So, the next time one plans to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, don’t be surprised to see a mariachi band playing or an Aztec tribe dancing along with the big sea bass that swims in the big blue cavern.   

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