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The Fiestas Patronales and Business Expo is an ambitious, 18-day celebration of Hispanic music and culture that runs Thursday through Jan. 5 at the Pines City Center in Pembroke Pines. It will feature live music, crafts and traditional food and drink from Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries.

The event, now in its 13th year, will include legendary salsa performers such as Larry Harlow and Sal Cuevas, as well as up-and-coming contemporary artists such as Marlow Rosado, one of seven Grammy winners who will take the stage during the festival.

Although organizer Frank Nieves had to cancel last year's Fiestas, citing personal and family issues, he promises this year's event will be "better and stronger than ever."

"We're going to have a festival without precedents," says Nieves, president of the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Broward County. "There are no other celebrations in the United States that last so many days and span so much activity."

The festival is inspired by the traditional "fiestas patronales" in Puerto Rico, where towns hold annual, multiday celebrations dedicated to their respective patron saints.

"I want to come back strong, with more will than ever to keep our traditions alive and emphasize our Hispanic culture, particularly during these celebrations at the end of the year," Nieves says.

Many of the performers, including Rosado, are of Puerto Rican descent. Salsa will take center stage at the fiestas, but there will also be merengue, bachata and even a burst of traditional Puerto Rican plena on Christmas Day.

Part of the festival's proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross and other organizations, such as Austism Speaks and My First Horizon, Nieves says. There will also be a health fair, activities for children and a tribute to Grammy winner Pablo "Chino" Nuñez, who is recovering from a heart attack at the age of 53.

"Though we belong to different countries, Latinos are united by the same culture and the same race," Nieves says. "And one of our common denominators is our passion for music, particularly salsa. It's a festival for everyone."

The Fiestas Patronales and Business Expo will be held Dec. 19 through Jan. 5 at the Pines City Center, 10400 Pines Blvd. Admission is $10 a day. Call 954-559-5355 or go to

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