As the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, Dia de La Raza was held as one last function put on by the University of New Mexico to help bring Hispanic culture to life.
Time Magazine defines Hispanic Heritage Month as “an official celebration of American citizens whose ancestry can be traced back to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.”
This definition applies to the events that have been put on by student cultural groups on campus and El Centro from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Many events included traditional foods and music that celebrated the large Hispanic population at UNM.
The Dia de La Raza event was put on by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Student Special Events (ASUNM SSE) and the University’s El Centro de la Raza. It brought in three different types of art to display a multitude of Hispanic cultures through talent.
The night kicked off with live music from mariachi duo Amigos de Nuevo México. Omar Villanueva and Arnalbo Gutierrez sang acoustic covers of songs from Mexico, America, Cuba and Peru. Songs like Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” had the audience singing and swaying along with the Amigos.
“I want to share an appreciation of other cultures,” Villanueva said. “We just want to show people what we have as Latin Americans.”
Event organizer Victoria Knight invited two slam poets to perform their original work. Reina Davis and Gabe Reyes, both of Hispanic origins, took the stage to talk about the struggles they face as Chicanos and expressed their thoughts through spoken word.
Being able to speak to an audience of peers and community members was important for Reyes, who felt like the space was essential for those outside of the majority.
“The strongest part of the community here is allowing people who are outside of the normal demographics to have a voice. So it's really important for me to be able to have these spaces,” Reyes said.
Davis’s poetry centered around her experience as a Chicana trying to navigate through her identity growing up and into her adulthood.
“With the audience, I not only wanted to talk about racism and how we hurt as a people, but how we connect and share beauty as a people too,” Davis said.
Concluding the night’s festivities, Knight brought in traditional folklorico dance academy, Baila! Baila!, to perform a Spanish dance style with participants who were primarily children and highschoolers.
Deidre Salaz, an instructor at Baila! Baila!, said the intention behind the group was to be able to share these traditions with generations both old and young. She added that the academy is welcome to anyone who wants to learn how to dance folklorico.
“We celebrate our Hispanic culture every single day in practice,” Salaz said. “It all about family. We all become a family here.”
Students got to enjoy the show, which embraced the diversity within Hispanic heritage, along with the free paletas that were being handed on at the door.
“I really liked the music. I thought that was really inviting to walk in and hear a bunch of different songs that you could sing along with that you’d hear growing up,” UNM student Dominica Nieto said.
Nieto attended Dia de La Raza with a group of friends to celebrate Hispanic heritage and watch the talent that was brought to the Student Union Building on UNM’s campus.
Nieto commented that she felt like she could relate to what she has seen and heard, especially the poetry which she felt was different than poetry she had heard in the past.
Although Hispanic Heritage Month ended on Tuesday, Knight hopes that people who attended the UNM events, specifically Dia de La Raza, leave celebrating Hispanic culture outside of September and October.
“For people of Hispanic or Latin origins, I hope they leave feeling like they’ve been represented well,” Knight said. “For people who are not of those ethnic origins, I hope that they leave with just an appreciation for what they saw if not an appreciation for Hispanic heritage.”
Alanie Rael is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AllyRael