Paula Lucero founded Sudamericana after realizing there was a certain type of party missing in L.A. Sure, there were several Latin dance nights around town, but each specialized in a certain genre, which required much party-hopping in order to experience all the different types of music.
For example, El Floridita has always been a hot spot for salsa dancing in Hollywood, but it does not expand much beyond salsa and bachata. Plus, the club is popular with some highly talented salsa dancers who are fun to watch but make it intimidating for people with average salsa skills.
All these events were not multicultural enough for Lucero, either. Originally from Toronto, Lucero grew up in a diverse environment. Known as one of the world's most multicultural cities, Toronto's communities include Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and people from all corners of Latin America.
All of that is why, in 2012, Lucero started the first Sudamericana parties at the old Barcopa on Main Street in Santa Monica. She envisioned a night that celebrated all the music of Latin America, where Latin American transplants now living in L.A. can go to reminisce on the music from back home.
“We were missing nostalgia. We play music from the '70s, '80s and '90s that you grew up with in South America and people get excited. It’s like they're kids again,” says Lucero.
Sudamericana is inclusive to all and has been a hit with non-Latinos as well.
“There are lots of people who have traveled to South America. They come and remember of their travels when they went to places like Colombia. They vibe. It's high energy. It translates well to anyone who just wants to dance.”
The party started as a free event and once it gained momentum it grew into a $10 party. By the 10th party, Sudamericana started donating proceeds to charities and became more than a party but a chance to give back. Now, every party is tied to a charity. Some of the causes they have supported include homelessness, sex trafficking, orphanages and transgender rights.
The residents include DJ Paul Valentino and DJ Toka. Some of the music you will hear at Sudamericana includes artists like Los Pericos, Los Fabulosos and Xuxa. Along with more nostalgic music, they also introduce new music from Latin America.
In 2014, the party moved to the Continental Club in downtown Los Angeles. Now with a bigger space and a more central location, celebrities started to become a more common sight at Sudamericana, including Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers, Yara Martinez from Jane the Virgin, and Vannessa Vasquez and Jes Meza from the hit Hulu series East Los High.
“I think Mayor Villaraigosa is the most random-ish celebrity. I taught him a couple salsa moves,” says Lucero.
But it's not a pretentious party with celebrities behind a velvet rope. The party is largely attended by young professionals in the music and film industry, so it’s more of a vibe where everyone can let their guard down and have fun.
Sudamericana takes place every three weeks at the Continental Club. This Friday, Feb. 24, the party celebrates its fifth anniversary with a carnaval theme.
“You put it together and it's a lot of work,” says Lucero. “Then you get a bunch of text messages of people waking up hungover and happy and that's always fun.”