Jasmine Charl?n, in a white button-up shirt, loosened her tie and draped it around her red-shirted, black-skirted twin sister Jocelyn Charl?n in their homemade salsa dance routine. The routine involved audience members as the “couple” salsa-danced to “Canto a la Habana,” which means “Song to Havana,” by Celia Cruz.
“The song talks about many beautiful places in Cuba, one of which is Pinar del Rio, where my parents are from,” Jocelyn Charl?n, Uni?n Latina (UL) president, wrote in an e-mail message. “We decided to dance to this song since it speaks of the beauty of Cuba and we wanted to share that with everyone.”
Explosi?n Latina, an annual UL event, included cultural food supplied by El Aguadillano in Trenton and entertainment by the College’s own talented UL members.
The aroma of delicious Latino dishes and Spanish words in song pervaded Brower Student Center on the afternoon of Saturday, April 23. Attendees and participants in the show swayed to traditional Latino music as they mingled and snacked on colorful ethnic food.
UL members worked together to set up a festive, entertaining atmosphere under the direction of multicultural program co-chairs, Wendy Irizarry and Carolina Guzman.
A great deal of time went into the creation of vibrant red and yellow decorations. The walls of Brower Student Center’s Room 202 were adorned with flags of Latin American nations. UL members served beautifully presented foods, such as yellow potato balls and savory pork.
“This year we tried to get a wide variety of food from various Latin American countries. They are all very delicious,” Jocelyn Charl?n said.
Meal choices, different forms of rice, meats, vegetables and other ethnic treats, were presented buffet style. Students and family members, young and grown, selected from long tables of foil pans and full platters of food. For many, the food was a main attraction at the cultural show.
“Everything was really good. I ate so much, and it only cost $1,” Natalie Cedeno, freshman biology major, said.
Following the meal, the event continued in the Student Center Food Court. Latino dance music blared as the UL dance team, “Ritmo Latino,” or Latin Rhythm, performed traditional cultural dances and contemporary dances from the Latino culture. The team’s energy transferred to an enthused audience, which clapped, laughed, “oohed” and “aahed” at the brightly colored traditional costumes and in-time dance moves.
UL awarded prizes to audience members, including one prize for a dance competition. The mother of UL adviser Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle won one of the prizes.
The whole audience lined up for the final act, a dance to the “Conga” by Gloria Estefan.
Salsa dancing, including the performance by the Charl?n twins, took place throughout the entertainment portion. Salsa consists of a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. Members of Ritmo Latino performed in groups of females, as well as in groups of male and female pairs. Audience members cheered as dancers, adorned in mostly red and black, gracefully spun and performed lifts.
Joanna Holgu?n, vice president of UL, accompanied herself on the keyboard while singing a song by the Latina artist Selena.
The enthusiasm continued throughout the evening with several other student performances. These included Latino singing, dancing and poetry readings. Songs were generally of the traditional Latino style and the dancing was of the salsa genre. Poetry readings expressed cultural honor for Latinos and described what it is like to possess a Latino identity.
“All (UL) members are very dedicated and excited to participate,” Jocelyn Charl?n said.
Explosi?n Latina is a part of the Latino Awareness Celebration, which began on April 4 and lasts throughout the month. Events such as the cultural show take place over the course of the entire month. They are intended to honor and spread awareness of Latino culture around campus.
Closing events for the celebration will take place on Sunday, May 1 at 6 p.m. in the Business Building Basement.
-Julie Latsko, Correspondent; Becky Barrett, Features Assistant