Sand In My Shoes

She Follows The Beat Of Her Own Drum

She follows the beat of her own drum.

And you can see Mila Tina pound her drums and dance and move and leap in martial arts gyrations against a videotape backdrop depicting images of women’s empowerment on stage at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Friday night at 7 PM.

Mila Tina’s electro Latina dance percussion show is the headline of Pachanga, the Latin festival that will ignite Sag Harbor this weekend in a celebration of Hispanic heritage and culture that will also include a sizzling salsa performance by Loco Mama.

“I came here from Chile when I was 17 and graduated Westhampton Beach High School,” says Mila Tina, whose real name is Carolina Fuentes. “I knew very little English when I arrived but I worked very, very hard and passed all of my Regents and with honors in art. Today I live in Water Mill and I am a web designer and an artist and I teach drums and I’m building a career in music and dance as Mila Tina. Since I was a little girl I was fascinated by drums, by the sheer power of percussion.”

Fuentes says drums have traditionally been perceived as the province of men, a boy’s club of musical performance, a macho violent celebration with roots in war drums, a display of attack, pounding and beating of the skins with hands and sticks.

“But I researched drums and found that so many women played drums in various cultures throughout history,” Fuentes says. “So many mythical goddesses were drummers. That inspired me to think about playing.”

“I am 30 now and I didn’t start playing the drums until I was 23. But when I did finally pick up the sticks something primal and magical was unleashed from within me.  And as a girl I studied Japanese shotokan karate which taught me the power of balance and movement and empowerment.

“And, of course, I love to dance and today I train in boxing so I have combined all of these traditionally male elements of power and control and movement and dance and percussion into a one-woman performance that is a celebration of the power of womanhood.”

Fuentes says that when Minerva Perez of the Organización of Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island asked her to headline the Pachanga 2018 festival at the Bay Street Theater, she was thrilled.

“I have worked with Minerva on many projects and have done web design for OLA and even designed the poster and flyer for the Pachanga,” says Fuentes. “I cannot express how honored I am that she asked me to perform. I have opened for bigger acts in New York City and performed in the Hamptons. But I love all that OLA does for our community and I love Minerva, and when she asked me to perform in the Bay Street Theater, a treasure which I love, it was like the thrill of a lifetime. So I will not let her or my community down.”

Fuentes says she also loved this year’s theme of Pachanga in this time of the #MeToo – #YoTambien – movement.

“I was sexually assaulted back in Chile and here in America,” says Fuentes. “I do not want to go into details because this is not about me except to say #MeToo. This is about all of us women who have suffered sexual assault, exploitation, harassment, discrimination. This is about all of us but I want the other women to know #YoTambien. And they will see in the videotape projected behind me and in my performance a celebration of women’s empowerment that I think many will identify with and find liberating.”

Minerva Perez says Carolina Fuentes was the perfect headliner because this year’s Pachanga is a moment to underscore the #YoTambien (#MeToo) movement that allowed survivors of sexual assault and harassment to come forward in strength and unity.

“Those in the immigrant community often suffer impossible barriers to reporting crimes,” says Perez. “Carolina is the power and beauty behind Mila Tina and her use of music, movement, and raw rhythm transforms pain into pure joy and a life force of epic proportions.”

So with spring in the air, there is no better way to kick off a celebration of life and female empowerment than with Mila Tina at Pachanga.

“The drums are the heartbeat of Mother Earth,” says Carolina Fuentes. “When I play the drums in a stand-up position, dancing and moving as I bang the drums, I feel Mother Earth rising and flowing through me and projecting out into the audience. Afterwards so many young girls and young women approach me to say how liberating they find it. They ask how they can learn to play the drums themselves.”

“This Pachanga is dedicated to those who have been able to find their strength and those still struggling who rely on all of us to listen and to honor their experiences so that their healing can begin,” says Perez.

Carolina Fuentes says it’s a wonderful thing to connect with other women like this.

“When girls and women know my story of sexual assault so many can also sadly identify,” she says. “But it brings a healing unity, a bonding sisterhood, to be able to say #MeToo, #YoTambien.”

Go see Mila Tina follow the beat of her own drum…

To comment on Sand in My Shoes, email denishamill@gmail.com.