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Folklife in Central Florida

    Folklife is the traditional, shared expressive culture of a group. It includes a variety of customs and practices from several main categories: verbal, customary and material. Verbal folklife include folktales and music, customary folklife includes festivals and dance, and material folklife includes crafts and foodways. Folklife plays a variety of roles in modern life because it is rooted in a group’s shared history while also transforming with each performance or creation to remain meaningful to the people who practice it. On this site you will see a portrait of a variety of different folk artists and the arts and customs they practice. All contribute to the diverse heritage and culture of Central Florida.


Below you may learn about the Latin-American and Spanish , Asian-American, and African-Diasporic traditions and artists in Central Florida.


Featured Artists


Lilly Carrasquillo

Lilly Carrasquillo:
Pan-Latin Traditions


Martin Zagbo of Groupe Afric Azolou

Groupe Afric Azolou:
Western & Central African Traditions

Grupo Batey led by Helen Figueroa

Puerto Rican musician Miguel Lanzo

Latin-American and Spanish Traditions


    Central Florida has a sizeable Hispanic population, including people who trace their heritage from a number of countries including Mexico and Colombia. The dominant group, however, both numerically as well as in terms of public presence, is the Puerto Rican community. Puerto Rican folk artists create musical instruments like guiros and pulleros, maracas and claves while dance and music groups perform traditional danzas, seis chorreao, seis marianda, bomba and plena. Besides Puerto Ricans, other Hispanic groups are growing in size and public presence. For example, the Mexican population is growing rapidly, particularly in areas like Kissimmee and Sanford. Material culture traditions like ofrenda and piñata-making continue while dance and musical groups perform Mariachi music.

Learn more about Latin-American and Spanish traditions in Central Florida:


Mexican-American Ofrenda

Vietnamese Buddhist Long Van Temple

Asian-American Traditions


    A number of Asian groups have settled and flourished in the Central Florida area including Vietnamese, Filipino and Laotian communities. Vietnamese culture is highly visible especially in Orlando, where the area known as Colonialtown, located at the corner of Colonial and Mills, is filled with Vietnamese businesses. The two main religious centers for the Vietnamese community are the Buddhist Long Van Temple and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Both houses of worship sponsor Tet or New Year Festivals featuring traditional foodways and performances by martial arts groups like Viet Vo Dao. Vietnamese folk music is alive and well, with musicians like Tina Nguyen and Linh Phuong who can play traditional instruments like the Dan Bau or monochord and the Dan Tranh or zither. In addition to Vietnamese culture, other Asian cultures continue to make Central Florida their home and continue to adapt their folklife. Area dance and musical traditions include the Laotian Dance Troupe headed by Kham Insoluta of Pinellas Park (a children's dance group), the Philippine Performing Arts Dance Company of Tampa Bay, and the Musikong Kawyan Bamboo Orchestra (Filipino folk music and dance featuring traditional rural bamboo instruments called anglings).

Learn more about Asian-American traditions in Central Florida:



Vietnamese Vo Dao Martial Arts

Tina Nguyen

The City of Eatonville

Martin Zagbo

African-Diasporic Traditions


    Central Florida has a number of historically African-American areas such as Eatonville (home of folklorist Zora Neale Hurston and site of the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival), the Parramore district of Orlando and east Mims in North Brevard county. In addition to the annual Easter parade, the community of east Mims also has a rich history of citrus, palmetto and other regional industries, the folklife of which is still remembered by community elders. African-American religious traditions also flourish with hymn lining and gospel steel guitar playing. In addition, Groupe Afric Azolou of Orlando offer performances of Central and West African dance and music for community members and students at local schools.

Learn more about African-Diasporic traditions in Central Florida:


Hymn Lining and Steel Guitar
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