By Karis Rogerson
Asbury’s Latino organization, Lambda Sigma, coordinated a Latino Night on Oct. 12 as a way to increase student appreciation of their culture.
Lambda Sigma president, Cindy Palacios, a second semester senior who transferred to Asbury in the spring of 2012, said the purpose of Latino Night was “to share the rich and wonderful heritage of the Latino culture.” She added that there is a difference between studying a culture and actually experiencing it firsthand. “We wanted to give Asbury the opportunity to see why we love and are proud of our own culture,” Palacios said.
Club vice president Paual Diaz added, “[Latinos] have so much to offer to the American ‘melting pot’ and [we] wanted a chance to share it with Asbury.”
Esther Jadhav, director of intercultural programs, said that over 250 students attended the festival.
Sophomore Heather Hollingshead said she attended in part to support friends on Lambda Sigma’s cabinet, but also in order to experience the culture. “I love Latin culture, mainly dancing,” Hollingshead said. “So I was hoping to stretch my cha-cha skills some and have some fun.”
Sophomore Jon Baker attended the festival because he appreciates other cultures and enjoys learning more about them. He said, “I love to learn about Latino culture and how it differs from mine.”
Hollingshead enjoyed the festival for a variety of reasons, one of which, she said, was an introduction to a Mexican drink called “horchata.” “[Horchata] is an amazing, cinnamon-spiced, evaporated chilled milk dessert,” Hollingshead said.
The night held more gifts for attendees, though. Food was provided from “La Casa de Jose,” a local Mexican restaurant, and was free to everyone who came by, as was the face painting done by senior Lizzi Smith. In addition, the night ended with a drawing for a gift card to Qdoba, a piñata and entertainment provided by a live mariachi band.
“I really loved the mariachi band,” Hollingshead said. “I hadn’t heard much of that kind of music and have really only heard one tune,” but she added that learning about the origins of mariachi bands was also a positive outcome of the event.
Baker and Hollingshead agreed that the night was informative as well as fun. “It informed me that other cultures are what hold our campus together as a close-knit community,” Baker said.
“Without multiple cultures on campus there would not be a desire or passion for learning, understanding and engaging in other cultures.”
According to Jadhav, of the 1,325 students currently attending the university, 22 are international and 112 are U.S. ethnic students, for a total of 134 non-Caucasian or American-born students. These make up approximately 10 percent of the total population.
While the purpose of the event was clearly to increase non-Latino students’ appreciation for and understanding of Latino culture, opinions differ on whether or not Asbury appreciates diversity on a regular basis.
Baker believes that Asbury understands diversity and cultural awareness. “Our community here at Asbury appreciates culture, and its passion is to make us culturally aware,” he said. “[Latino Night] is an accurate representation of Asbury’s diversity.”
Hollingshead agreed, saying, “A lot of people showed up and had a lot of fun! I think food and music are a great way to bond cultures, people, friends, family, etc.”
On the other side, Palacios said that while the goals of the festival itself were met, she thinks Asbury is still not a very diverse campus. “The fact that I have been called Spanish instead of Hispanic or Latino just tells me there is still some work to be done,” she said.
Diaz agreed that the festival was a success, saying, “I am still so overwhelmed with the success of the event. I mean, everything surpassed my every expectation.” While Diaz believes that Asbury is a diverse campus, she said, “I don’t think we take much advantage of it.”
Neither Diaz or Palacios thinks other students fully appreciate the impact of their culture on campus life, but they hope to see this change in the future. Diaz said, “It’s through events like our Latino Night that we hope to change this and show others just how great our culture is.”