Latino GW students celebrate culture

About 250 students celebrated Latino culture in the Marvin Center Friday night as the recently renamed Organization of Latino American Students presented its fifth annual Noche de Cultura: Latino Odyssey.

The event featured traditional cuisine, live performances, music and guest speaker Brent Wiles, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The program lineup differed from previous years’ in that the organization had live performances focusing on how the Latino tradition is integrated into other cultures, as well as a history slide show.

“The newest thing this year we’re adding is the Latino hip-hop performance,” said Vivian Delgado, vice president of OLAS. “Before, we showed what is Latin. Now, we are showing how Latin is incorporated in the modern culture. There are salsa and meringue moves in the rapper’s dance moves.”

Organizers said they chose this year’s theme, “Latino Odyssey,” to show the journey their Latino ancestors took when they came to the United States.

The first half of the event was dedicated to traditional music and dance of various countries, such as Mexican folk dances, Argentinean Tango and Cuadro Flamenco. GW’s Los Gringos Latin band also performed, and Wilkes spoke about the United States.

“The event reflects our rich and diverse cultures representing all of Latin America and our experience here now in North America,” said Michael Trask, president of OLAS. “The purpose of the event is to celebrate and share our culture with the entire GW community.”

The second half of the night featured poetry reading, skits by OLAS, a rap performance by Latin hip-hop artist Christopolis and a Latinos for Progress/OLAS history slide show.

OLAS changed its name a year ago, from Latinos to Progress to its current name, because members felt the new name was more inclusive and lacked any political overtones that the old one may have reflected.

“The name change also reflected the campus community, which was begging for involvement in our organization but never approached us because they thought you had to be Latino,” Trask said. “Now we are the Organization of Latino American Students. Equally Latino and American.”

Noche de Cultura is OLAS’s biggest event of the year. The organization has not calculated its earnings for this year’s event but plan to within the next few days. Tickets cost $10 for students, $12 for non-students and $15 for those buying at the door. Earnings will go toward next year’s Noche de Cultura.

In addition to money generated from the previous year, OLAS received funding from several organizations such as the Program Board, La Unidad Latina and the Marvin Center Governing Board.

Amanda Montez, co-chair of the Noche de Cultura committee, said people need to have a “better understanding of Latino culture.”

“OLAS and this event serve as an intermediary of our culture to GW students, and we are sharing what we have,” Montez said.

Members of OLAS said the event was a success.

“I was excited and very happy about the turnout,” said Emily Suarez-Harris, co-chair of the Noche de Cultura committee. “There were no problems with the acts, the food was awesome, the decorations were good and I was really pleased. Everything worked out.”

Attendees also said they enjoyed the show and the food.

“It was very impressive,” sophomore Marisa Helfrich said. “There was a lot of spirit and the food was great.”

“It was awesome,” freshman Charles Wekselbaum said. “It was very well planned and they did a good job. The acts were tight and representative of Latino culture.”

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