Taste of Latin Culture

“Muchos Mundos, Una Gente” or “Many Worlds, One People,” is the theme for Latino Heritage Month, which kicked off earlier this month.

This theme was meant to highlight the diverse regions and cultures that Latinos come from, said Michael Freeman, director of the Latino Heritage Month Planning Committee.

Latino Heritage Month officially began at Temple on Sept. 27 at the Bell Tower with a live salsa band, Ritmo Fuego, demonstrations of the Capoeira, a South American martial arts and dance form, and a salsa dance troupe, Escencia Latina.

The opening ceremony also featured Latino student and academic organizations, such as the Asociacion de Estudiantes Latinos, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. and Gamma Phi Sigma “Hermanos Unidos” Fraternity Inc.

“This year, we wanted to introduce the campus to Latino organizations and let them know that we do have Latino sororities and fraternities,” Freeman said.

Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. hosted a dance workshop called “Bomba y Plena,” which exposed students to Latin music and dance forms other than the salsa and the meringue.

“This program really came from a need for something new,” Shoshana Brown, a sister of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc, said. “I mean how many times can you learn salsa?”

The sorority invited a Philadelphia-based dance troupe, Philareyto, to give students an interactive lesson in the traditional Puerto Rican folk dances, Bomba y Plena.

Developed during Puerto Rico’s colonial years, Bomba y Plena are two unique dances that combine Spanish language with African-derived percussion and rhythms, reflecting a cultural mix of the island’s Spanish, African, and Taíno traditions.

Dressed in bright red dresses trimmed with white lace, Maribel Lozada, an instructor and dancer of Philareyto, and her daughters, Ivana Gonzalez and Katsi Miranda Lozada, introduced students to the instruments and movements used in each dance form.

Plena music is characterized by narrative lyrics, Lozada said, and served as a way to communicate messages among the working class in Puerto Rico.

“It is a social dance,” Lozada noted as she gathered the hem of her dress to show students the basic steps.

The movement was comprised of a series of backward, forward and side steps, which is accentuated by the fluttering and flapping of a skirt. With each step, Lozada flapped open her skirt, away from herself and then closed it, keeping to the beat and rhythm of hand drums called panderos and the strumming of cuatro, a smaller version of the classical Spanish guitar.

The females in the audience were provided with white skirts to practice the movements in the same way.

Lozada then gathered her skirt to expose her feet and began a rhythmic stomping on the floor, demonstrating the grounded, heavily African-influenced movements of Bomba. She explained that the movement is about the elegant ruffling of the skirt.

“Every movement you make is marked on the drum,” said Lozada. “It’s a call-and-response kind of thing.”

Lozada explained that an experienced dancer can make the drummer follow their movements and not the other way around.

“You know you are doing it right when you leave with a hurt back,” said Lozada.
Other events were also held on campus throughout the month, including the “Latino Literary Heroes” workshop sponsored by ADEL, an umbrella organization for the various Latino student groups on campus, which discussed and celebrated the literature and art of Latinos.

Students shared their favorite books and poetry by Latino writers, such as Miguel Pinero, Julia Alvarez and Sofia Quintero and discussed the content and genres of Latino literature.
Some of the topics discussed included how Latinos handle influence from the media to look or act a certain way, and designations Latinos create to rate their cultural authenticity.

Julisa Garcia, vice president of ADEL, said that lightening her hair could be perceived as her unintentional conformity to the role of the “sexy Latina.”

“Some people would even say I’m trying to look white,” Garcia said.

Color and race is also an underlying issue in the Latino community, which is addressed in many of the books students shared during the discussion.

“We fight ourselves and do not accept the strong African presence in our culture,” said Amy Eusebio, president of ADEL.

Eusebio added that through literature, Latinos can get a better sense of who they are.
Reyna Florentino, a freshman accounting and legal business major, shared her own poetry with the group. She said she was inspired to write after reading Spanish poetry while attending school in The Dominican Republic for three years.

“I used to write some of my poetry in Spanish,” said Florentino who primarily writes her poems in English now. “Spanish forces you to be more specific than in English. It has more impact.”

ADEL hopes to continue the Latino Heroes series on political figures, musicians and business leaders for next year’s Latino Heritage Month celebration.
Other events that were held on campus to celebrate Latino Heritage Month included a domino game night, information session about Latino student organizations, discussion on Latin American politics and games that tested knowledge of Latino culture.

Malaika T. Carpenter can be reached at malaika.carpenter@temple.edu.

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