On an incredibly gorgeous evening, dozens of smiling people were strolling the blocks of Milwaukie. A children’s bouncy house, displays of art, and other goods ready to sell covered the sidewalks. I spent my August First Friday experience at Cha Cha Cha Taqueria, located at 11008 SE Main Street.
I spoke with owner Carmen Meyer, who is a big proponent of First Fridays in Milwaukie. “We’ve been participating in this event for the last few years,” she said. “I love the feeling of community it brings to the residents and visitors in the area.” She added that the summer time, especially, attracts happy pedestrians who enjoy the mixture of culture and entertainment.
Meyer provides that atmosphere at Cha Cha Cha every day. She has rotating displays by local artists and highly encourages the sharing of cultures within the diverse neighborhood. That particular evening there was traditional Mexican clothing hanging on one wall, and brightly colored paintings by Alejandro Ceballos on the other. Meyer also hosts weekly salsa dancing on Sundays, complete with a beginner-friendly lesson at 6:45 p.m. and open dancing until 10:00.
After grabbing a margarita and a tasty dinner dish, I took a seat outside. The audience, a blend of cheerful friends and families, sat around the sidewalk-turned-stage and waited for the entertainment to begin. The artist was local guitarist and singer, Edna Vazquez, originally from Jalisco, Mexico. When I asked about her style, Edna told me about her mixture of traditional Mexican folk from the 1930s and 1940s, along with her original compositions. “I like to sing songs that are called trovas; they are like poems with music.” Under a sun-shielding cover, Edna had set up her guitar and microphone with a notebook in front of her. She was very personable with the crowd, introducing herself and giving the expected explanation of each of the songs that she sang.
What I didn’t expect was the first musical instrument I heard—a beautifully haunting
whistle that came out of Edna’s mouth. It perfectly accompanied her voice, which was resonant and deep, and she played her guitar with the warmth of an old friend. I sipped my margarita and let my mind wander as a woman and her music floated across the lovely early-evening sky.
Cha Cha Cha Taqueria
11008 SE Main Street
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