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Latino Blood is Thicker than Agua 

If the South has more of a family vibe than other parts of the United States, then the further south you go, the more apparent it becomes that latitude must have something to do with it.

The local Latin rock band La Rúa, consisting of Ecuadorian brothers Herman and Juan Miguel Marin and three other musicians from Ecuador and Venezuela, was a driving force in bringing Rock en Español to Charlotte. The group became a quintet when keyboard player Herman decided after a visit to Charlotte to stay in the States; Juan could not imagine playing in La Rúa without his lifetime musical mate. The rest of the group opened their arms to the second Marin.

The idea of a large but close-knit extended family, Juan Marin says, is the Latino way. "People in general are closer," he says. Marin's friends, for example, have developed close friendships with his parents. "Your parents can actually get to know your friends as people, not necessarily as, 'What are you doing? Where are you going?'"

During holidays such as Christmas, Latino families and friends often gather from mid-morning until the next day, just hanging out and talking. Any subject is fair game at Latino family gatherings, including risqué, sexually oriented jokes that would be forbidden at most mixed-age and mixed-gender gatherings in the States. The one constant at a Latino family celebration is huge, boisterous laughter.

La Rúa has laid the groundwork for other Latin acts to get gigs in Charlotte. "We've done some of the dirty work," he says of the process of scouting venues open to diversifying their music.

"Being a new thing in town and trying to grow, we have to be as supportive as we can with the other bands," he says.

Marin has encouraged other Latino acts, including La Marea and Bakalau Stars, to make demos, and he's helped them to network. At shows and on La Rúa's Web site, the band connects Latino musicians with potential band mates. At some shows, La Rúa brings guest musicians on stage to promote their bands. But it's about more than promoting other Latino rockers: jamming with friends is the Latino way.

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