The Salsa Festival came to Oxnard last weekend, July 30-31, with spicy flavor and flair, bringing in a variety of Latino musicians and dancers and encompassing all of the usual entertainment that one would expect at such an event. What was rather unforeseen, though, was the negative feedback when dancers hit the stage in traditional Brazilian carnival costumes, with their sequin-covered, bikini thong-style two-pieces and feather headdresses. The Salsa Festival, after all, did provide a stage for all things Central America and South America. So … what gives?

The criticism over the scantily clad Brazilian dancers was based on the fact that the Salsa Festival was marketed as a “family-friendly” event. But to all appearances, those women didn’t change that. It wasn’t as if young children began stripping down to their underwear to imitate the women, because children simply don’t see others in the sexualized way adults do. The fact that anyone saw these outfits as less than family friendly highlights just how out-of-whack Americans priorities are. Let’s, however, take a step back. When it comes to violence, there seems to be little hesitation on what we expose our kids to. It’s everywhere. We can’t seem to get away from it. We see it in commercials, TV shows, movies and video games. It’s become an integral part of our culture, but then, when our children and even adults act out in aggressive ways, treating each other poorly and imitating what they have seen, if even on a subconscious level, we act surprised and disappointed. Instead of monitoring and limiting access to violent entertainment, too many seem to turn a blind eye.

On the opposite side of that coin, however, some were seriously upset by three women wearing sequined bikinis and feather headdresses, despite their less-than-perfect body types, which we also shame as a society. So here we are, fine with our kids shooting at each other with fake guns but we shake our fingers at everyone involved in allowing three courageous women to practice a fun traditional dance. Why aren’t we accepting and admiring of long-standing healthy traditions that embraces the human form? Instead, in the U.S., we choose to embrace a different kind of culture that too often results in the harming of the human form.
For those women at the Salsa Festival and any other person who loves such a harmless activity, we commend and encourage you to keep on dancing. It’s only by acceptance and tolerance that we will ever be able to turn the corner in this country that has left us so hostile, judgmental and polarized.