The old and the LatiNU

Elizabeth Campbell

Flags from 21 different Latin American countries decorated the walls of the Louis Room on Sunday night, reminding audience members at the Festival LatiNU of the vast diversity within the Hispanic culture.

The peak event of Northwestern’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month attracted more than 150 students and community members, said Ana Valenzuela, president of Alianza, the primary sponsor of the event funded by the Student Activities Finance Board.

Cultural dances ranging from the Samba to the Salsa were performed as Latin music rang in the background. Audience members helped themselves to a buffet of Hispanic dishes while watching dance and music performances including the Merengue and Latin jazz.

Despite varying traditions among Hispanic groups, all can come together to appreciate their culture, said Valenzuela, a Weinberg senior.

“Rhythm and good food bring everyone together,” Valenzuela said. “The smaller differences fade away.”

Although the National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, NU’s academic calender prompts Hispanic campus organizations to delay the celebration, Valenzuela said.

NU’s celebration is from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1 and welcomes new Latino students to campus, said Ronnie Rios, director for Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs and adviser to Alianza.

Rios noted the significant role that Hispanics, the largest minority group, have played in United States’ history.

“It’s important to highlight our contributions, our values and what we celebrate,” Rios said.

The NU Hispanic population is between 5 percent and 6 percent, Rios said.

Despite being a small percentage of the total campus population, Latino students are making a big difference in their community, according to Enid Rosario.

As a Latina, Rosario said she must combat stereotypes.

Latino students must “demonstrate that we are educated people and we do great things,” said Rosario, a SESP graduate student.

The goal of the entire month is to “unify all of those cultures and recognize what they do individually and how they merge,” said Alicia Carrasquillo, Communication ’05 and a former public relations chairwoman of Alianza.

The Center for International and Comparative Studies, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Sigma Lambda Gamma national sorority all came together to sponsor the event.

The NU community’s celebration also ranges from Salsa lessons to lectures on Latinos’ roles in professional spheres.

The “melting pot” of cultures in the United States makes immigrants work to preserve their own culture, said Teddy Chavez, a first-generation Mexican-American and a student at DePaul University. He is also a paralegal at Gessler, Hughes, and Socol, Ltd.

“We were brought up that it’s very important to remember and actively reinforce those customs and belief,” Chavez said, adding that it is the fear of losing one’s culture that encourages Latinos to practice their traditions.

Though the events are geared toward Latinos, all are welcome to attend, Valenzuela said. She described the event as both educational and celebratory in nature.

“These types of events – anybody can enjoy if you respect culture,” she added.

Music senior Jason Rosenbaum said musicians should be familiar with a variety of cultural music.

He added that he enjoyed the Latin music at the Festival LatiNU.

“People are drawing on influences all over the place when they write their music, so musicians should be familiar with it when they hear it,” Rosenbaum said. “Music needs context.”

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    Upcoming Hispanic Heritage

    Celebration 2005 Events

    Salsa Party

    When: Oct. 15 at 9 p.m.

    Where: Ground floor, Norris

    How much: Free

    “Santa Biblia: Looking at Faith Through Hispanic Eyes”

    When: Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

    Where: Multicultural Center,

    1936 Sheridan Road

    How much: Free

    “Tequila Tales: Latinos and Alcohol”

    When: Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.

    Where: Multicultural Center,

    1936 Sheridan Road

    How much: Free

    Dia de Los Muertos Celebration

    When: Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.

    Where: John Evans Alumni Center,

    1800 Sheridan Road

    How much: Free