By Natalie A. Correa
The Latin American Student Organization (LASO) hosted its fourth annual National Hispanic Heritage Month Festival on Friday, Sept. 23. Held in Loyola Ballroom, the event was filled with Latin American cuisine, music, and other festive elements. This year’s theme was “An Untaught History & Better Future.” LASO said the theme “was inspired [by] the idea of one’s identity. Latin roots are very rich, and [do] not only come from the traditional European root. The event served as a way to educate the community about our African, indigenous, and European roots and emphasize that we are not one, but all of [these roots] together.”
Walking into the venue, you were immediately greeted by students representing Latin American countries, which included the Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Mexico to name a few. There were two to three student representatives at each table who taught guests about the history of their respective countries, alongside decorated poster boards and a traditional food item.
All guests were invited to have a more literal taste of Latin America as they indulged in traditional dishes. Food was ordered from local Worcester restaurants El Rincon Criollo and Hacienda Don Juan, and a generous food donation came from Fuente de Vida. I personally indulged in a plate of arroz blanco con bistec en salsa (white rice with steak in salsa). When making my food rounds throughout the countries, I also enjoyed some homemade pastelitos, a puff pastry with sweet or savory fillings, from the Dominican Republic’s table. My pastelito de queso was delicious and a wonderful little taste of home.
One of the most interesting highlights of the festival was the “Prueba Las Tortillas y Vota” (Try the Tortillas and Vote) table, which was managed by the Spanish department’s foreign language assistants and faculty members. Fun fact: tortillas are not the same in each country. This table taught guests about the variety of the word tortilla. For example, if you were to order a tortilla in Spain, you would receive a tortilla de patatas, an omelette made with eggs and potato. On the other hand, if you ordered a tortilla in Peru, you would eat tacu tacu, a rice and bean pancake. As Professor Frost said, this table showed guests that a tortilla is not just the “flat hot thing you eat.” After students tried tortillas from Mexico, Spain, Ecuador, Peru, and Guatemala, they were invited to vote on their favorite. Tortilla Española won!
Guests were also welcomed to view performances by Kelman Ramirez ‘18, Teresa Murphy ‘19, and a salsa performance by the Ballroom Dance Team. Ramirez performed a cappella versions of Marc Anthony’s “Hasta Que Te Conoci” and “Almohada” and the Ballroom Dance Team danced to Fredyclan’s upbeat salsa song, “Yo vengo de Cuba.” Accompanied by her guitar, Murphy sang “Venezuela” by Pablo Herrero Ibarz and José Luis Armenteros Sánchez. Murphy commented, “The interesting thing about it is that it was written by two Spaniards who had never been to Venezuela, but because they captured the Venezuelan culture so well, the song became the third national hymn of Venezuela. It’s a great example of how non-natives can play an important role to encourage and strengthen the Latin American culture!”
National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place every year from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 to celebrate the independence of seven Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. LASO’s festival was a great way to recognize these events and to help educate the Holy Cross community about Latin American culture. LASO said, “The theme was placed as a way to acknowledge that we are one community and we are all together hoping for change in the world and a better future. With all of the current events with Black Lives Matter and the presidential election, it is even more important to speak on the themes brought forth in the festival.”
LASO’s Hispanic Heritage Month Festival was a great kickoff to Homecoming Weekend! After the performances, guests cleared the floor to dance to various bachata, salsa, and cumbia songs. They were also welcomed to play a game of dominos for the chance to win some LASO swag.
In a nutshell, the event was excelente! If you didn’t have a chance to attend the festival, make sure to attend LASO’s annual Noche Latina in the spring for the cultural experience of a lifetime.