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In fiestas 

It's hard to believe that the region's largest Latin American celebration, La Fiesta Del Pueblo, is in its ninth year. While over 46,000 people attended last year's fest, El Pueblo is expecting an even larger turnout this year--guess the word's getting out. The fiesta offers a mix of traditional foods (who can forget those wonderful fresh mangos, dipped in lime and dried chili?), popular and traditional music, dance stages, children's activities and more, sponsored by El Pueblo, a nonprofit organization that's become the state's leading Latino advocacy and public policy group. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, North Carolina's Latino population is the fastest growing in the nation, a presence felt in our schools, neighborhoods and even our chain grocery stores, where items like dried chiles, mole sauce, guava drinks and masa flour are as easy to find as "American" items. The fiesta also hosts cultural exhibits, educational fairs, and a soccer tournament, and is planning an intensive voter registration effort since the fiesta falls on the weekend before the primary elections.

Returning this year is popular Latin pop artist Jade Estaban Estrada, who's as well-known in the beauty pageant industry as for his CDs. Best Estrada quotes: "Look out Ricky, there's a new Latin Sensation in town! (Ritmo Beat magazine), and "a 21st-century Oscar Wilde" (Urban Latino TV).

La Fiesta del Pueblo takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8, at the Chapel Hill High School. For details, visit www.elpueblo.org. --Angie Carlson

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