By Brielle Bryan
Gala de la Raza, which translates into “Celebration of the Races,” is one of two annual dances hosted by Union Latina. The event aims to honor Hispanic Heritage Month.
When more than 80 students walked into the Decker Social Space on Saturday, Oct. 21, they were met with a pathway of palm leaves lined with lanterns.
Yellow and green tables topped with synthetic leaves, candles, flowers and table cards filled the room. Each table card named a different country paired with a short excerpt of a legend or folktale.
The décor reflected the theme of the night: enchanted forest.
Anasofia Trelles, Union Latina multicultural awareness chair and a junior English and secondary education dual major, said each table’s adornments represented a miniature forest that was specific to the country the table encompassed.
“Gala de la Raza is important because it is a way to not only celebrate our cultural differences, but also share them with students who otherwise may have never been exposed to such things,” said Shavelly Valencia, Union Latina president and a senior accounting major.
The event also featured dances from Blackout Step Team, ASFA Dance Team and Ritmo Latino.
Ritmo Latino performed a typical Dominican dance called bachata, according to Priscilla Blanco, a group member and a junior deaf education and Spanish double major.
In addition to student performances, a professional ballerina showcased her skills at the event. Her dance incorporated traditional Latin styles with modern ballet elements.
After the performances were over, students lined up for a buffet of Latin cuisine, including sweet and salty plantains, lentil and black bean rice, chicken and pulled pork.
After filling their stomachs with food, everyone found their way to the dance floor where professional DJ Jorge Arana blended a mix of contemporary American pop music, such as “Work” by Rihanna, with Latin music, like “Duele el Corazon” by Enrique Iglesias.
Arana hails from Peru and began experimenting with music at a young age.
“When I was 5 years old, my mom bought me a small radio back in my country,” Arana said. “It had two cassette tapes. I used to play with them a lot… and try to mix them.”
The entertainment provided at Gala de la Raza showed how music and dance play a central role in Latin culture and can be used to bring different communities together.
“Seeing all the people there enjoying themselves and immersed in the dancing and culture was a memorable experience — one that I’ll never forget,” said Chris Johnson, a junior economics major.