Noche De Gala hosts night in Venezuela for scholarship money

Hunter O. LyleSports Editor

As Latin music blared throughout the ballroom, the attendees of the 12th annual Noche de Gala, were dressed in their best tuxedos and dresses and sat at red tables with white orchid centerpieces, eating, listening, and learning all about Venezuelan culture.

The Organization of Latin American Students chose to represent the South American country of Venezuela for their annual event which aims to fundraise in order to give out scholarships to students with Hispanic heritage.

“In 2008, [Noche de Gala] was more like a masquerade party, and it was to raise
money for OLAS — for OLAS to be able to take trips and do activities and things of that nature,” said Anna Rivera-Alfaro, the advisor to OLAS since 2008. “I want to say it was a year or two later that the group decided to use this event to raise funds for scholarships. They wanted to give back to the Latinx community.”

Rivera-Alfaro said that in the past, OLAS has been fairly successful when it comes to being able to hand out scholarships. “So far, knock on wood, we have raised one or two, depends on the year, $1,000 scholarships for Southern students,” said Rivera-Alfaro. “It’s usually for a LatinX incoming freshman student.”

When planning the event each year, members of OLAS vote on countries — which have not been picked in previous years — to represent during their gala. Last year, the organization chose Argentina, and this year, the decision came down to either Honduras, Venezuela or Guatemala, said President of OLAS Chelsey Cerrato. When it came to the night of the event, the ballroom on the third floor of the Student Center was turned into a little slice of Venezuela. Yellow, blue and red — the colors represented on the national flag — were displayed everywhere: from an actual Venezuelan flag that hung behind DJ Fire — the musical entertainment for the night — to yellow, blue and red balloons scattered around the room.

After the doors opened and well-dressed students and guests flooded the room, it was time for dinner. Members of OLAS supplied a mixture of Venezuelan and other Hispanic meals, said Rivera-Alfaro, since there was not an abundance of Venezuelan caterers.

“It’s always Latin food. We try as best as we can to get traditional food from the country we are highlighting but sometimes it’s difficult,” said Rivera-Alfaro. “Venezuela was a little bit difficult. The [Venezuelan] population in Connecticut is not that large.”

While everyone was eating, a slideshow projected on either side of the ballroom showed off some of famous and influential people that have
Venezuelan heritage, like Lilimar Hernandez from Nickelodeon’s Bella and the Bulldogs and Gaby Espino, who was a famous actress and model.

After the meal, professor Carlos Torre delivered a speech about the crisis in Venezuela. He explained that over the past few years there has been a political crisis between former President Nicolás Maduro, who refuses to yield his power, and opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Resulting from this power struggle, the country and its inhabitants have been left to face the blow-back, such as frequent blackouts across the country, limited accesses to food, water and medical care, and a tidal wave of crime and fleeing civilians.

“We would like to dedicate this night,” said Torre, “to our brothers and sisters in Venezuela.”

To wrap up the night, the award winning OLAS Dance Team performed traditional Venezuelan and Latin dances to get the party started. After they left with a thunderous applause, the rest of the crowd took to the dance floor.

Sociology major Jahsiah Colon, a senior, said he thinks events like this will help break boundaries and connect people.

“This is a very diverse campus. It allows everybody to dress their best, come out and just enjoy each other’s company,” said Colon. “It brings the community together on a Thursday night.”

Photo credit: Izzy Manzo


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