The event takes the form of a series of competitions of cumbia musicians and dancers. It open with a serenade in honor of the festival's deceased founder Jose Benito Barros Palomino. The event runs every year, when it culminates with the crowning of this year's Cumbia Queen - a prestigious title currently held by Marian Ortiz Rangel.
Cumbia is a musical style and flokloric dance which, alongside Valletano, has become emblematic of Colombia. People believe that the style may have its origins in Guinean Cumbe. It evolved on the Caribbean coast among African slaves, where it accompanied a traditional courtship ritual.
Gradually, European instruments such as flutes and keyboards were introduced, mingling with African drums and hand claps, which give genre a rapid, lively beat.
The festival has taken place every July in El Banco, since the first event in 1970. Its aim is to preserve, promote and stimulate this genre of Colombian music.
El Banco native and Cumbia legend Jose Barros first had the idea to celebrate the Caribbean style in 1966 with a festival. The composer, who was born in the Caribbean municipality to parents of Portuguese origin, was famous for Cumbia hits such as Navidad Negra, El Pescador and La Piragua before his death in May 2007.
The music festival is sponsored by the Jose Barros Palomino foundation and has been granted National Heritage status by the Colombian Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture expects 16,000 people to visit the festival.