Cultures collide in the Gap

Published 8:28 am Friday, April 6, 2018

Advanced Spanish students from the J. Frank White Academy (JFWA) will host The Mountain Fiesta in Cumberland Gap on April 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“This event is a celebration of the richness and uniqueness of Latin America, set in the heart of the Cumberland Gap,” said JFWA Spanish Instructor Zachary Greene. “We are offering an opportunity to experience and appreciate the similarities and differences between our mountains in Appalachia and the mountains of Latin America.”

The day-long street fair and party will take place in downtown Cumberland Gap around the LMU Convention Center, with musical performances, dance lessons, family games, art exhibits, cultural displays and more. SalsaKnox Dance Company from Knoxville will be demonstrating and teaching traditional Latin dances including salsa, cumbia and bachata and music performances will take place throughout the day. Food vendors representing Cuba, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Mexico and more will be on hand as well as the Gatos Tacos food truck.

Greene’s students, in addition to planning the event, researched traditions and customs of different Latin American countries including meals, celebrations, games, activities and more.

One of the performances at the fiesta will be the band Appalatin. The band unites Appalachian folk and high-energy Latin music. The name, Appalatin, reflects the combination of musicians from Kentucky, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Their all-acoustic performances of traditional strings of guitar, mandolin, upright bass, and charango, indigenous Andean flutes, hand percussion, harmonica and vocal harmonies have brought joy to listeners of all ages. They will be performing at the Convention Center on April 20 and during the event on April 21.

After starting out playing at a coffee shop in 2006, the band has since performed at some of the region’s most prestigious stages and venues. Since the release of their first album in 2011, the band has shared the stage with Red Baraat, Sam Bush, Claire Lynch, The Black Lilies, La Santa Cecilia, Ben Sollee and many others. In May 2013, they performed for more than 10,000 people in Louisville’s Yum! Center at the Dalai Lama’s Public Talk.

In 2014, the band received the Americana Award by the Louisville Music Awards Academy. They are the feature of an Emmy-nominated PBS-affiliate documentary in the Kentucky Muse series, now distributed nationwide on public stations. The band has been recording its third studio album and is set to release it in spring 2018.

Admission to The Mountain Fiesta is free. Follow the event Facebook page at for updates.