Carolina Torres – Special to Southern News –
The front patio of the Student Center is in an exceptional state: students are walking around with colorful Hawaiian necklaces and multicolored cocktail glasses, free food is offered and people are dancing to salsa and bachata rhythms played by a live band at full blast. It is the kickoff event to the National Hispanic Heritage Month–the Fiesta Latina 2012.
“The aim of the Fiesta Latina was to bring the campus community together and to appreciate Hispanic culture, food and music,” said Dian Brown-Albert, coordinator of multicultural student activities of the Multicultural Center. She was in charge of planning the event, together with the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS).
According to the Library of Congress, the Hispanic Heritage Week was established in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded to a month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, under President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
“It is the first time for us to arrange an event like this as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Brown-Albert. “We never had a live band on campus before.”
As the music began and the buffet was opened, the front patio of the Student Center became more and more crowded.
“Not only students came but also the faculty and staff,” said Anna Rivera-Alfaro, the OLAS advisor at Southern. “People even came out of Wintergreen. It was so nice seeing them interacting because that is what it’s all about. We wanted to attract people who don’t know about
Hispanic culture and bring them here to us to celebrate differences.”
An important role in every culture is played by its food, said Rivera-Alfaro. “We had for instance empanadas, rellenos de papas (potato balls) and maduros, which is some kind of sweet banana.”
The food was for free, and people enjoyed it, said Brown-Albert.
“We had over 600 different pieces of food and none of it is left,” Rivera-Alfaro said.
The main act of the Fiesta Latina was the live band: Son 7. The seven musicians call themselves a salsa band, but they play a little bit of everything, said singer Edwin Rivera Jr.
“We play Latin rock and bachata, too, as well as English music,” he said. “We try to react to and interact with the audience, which went very well today. I think people liked it, the atmosphere was really great.”
Just when the band started playing its first sounds, OLAS members with the yellow shirts stepped on the dance floor and started moving to the salsa and bachata rhythms; on their backs was the saying “Latinos do it con GANAS”.
“The music is great and I love when they dance,”said Nardina Abdelmalak, a senior biology student at Southern, who followed the spectacle. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came here, but now I like it. It seems to be a Latino dance party kind of thing.”
Nardina said she would like to see more of these events at Southern.
“I am in my senior year now, and I have never seen anything like this before here,” she said.“Every now and then, people should do something representing culture.”
Brown-Albert and River-Alfaro said they would definitely count the Fiesta Latina as a success.
“Now we are looking forward to the following events,” said Rivera-Alfaro. “The highlight will be the annual Noche de Gala on the 18th of October. The money we got from the tickets will be used to provide incoming freshmen of Latino descent with a scholarship.”