October 26, 2006
While poetry readings, movies, and Ryley dances make up typical weekends at Andover, this weekend integrated a cultural twist into the ordinary schedule.
To finish off Latin Arts week, the weekend consisted of a series of events related to Latin culture. Although this weekend’s Latin festivities provided entertainment for the community, the events meant so much more than a cure for Saturday night boredom.
The weekend featured an All-School Commons dinner, a catered Latin Arts dinner, a poetry reading entitled “La Voz Latina,” the theatrical performance “The Male Ego,” a writing workshop, a Salsa dance class and party and a bilingual Christian church service in Lawrence. These events were organized by members of the African-Latino-American Club (Af-Lat-Am). Elinel Almanzar ’07 and Tia Contreras ’07 were the two main coordinators of the weekend.
Almanzar and Contreras set up menus for the Af-Lat-Am dinner, made posters and invitations, organized transportation to the Evangelical Service, decorated Commons and Underwood, and performed many of the other jobs needed to make the Latin Arts Weekend a success.
“[This weekend] was definitely just a piece of the Latin Culture. There are so many subdivisions within the Latin and Latin American culture that one weekend, one week, or even one month would be too little to fully grasp the essence of each country, city, island, and so on,” said Almanzar. “The weekend’s goal was to make a lot of people feel at home and to appreciate some of the food, dances and writing styles that some of these Spanish speaking people share.”
Most of the events during the weekend, including The Male Ego and La Voz Latina were provided by the Timeless Talent Group, a group focused on educating through artistic expression.
On Saturday night, the Latin Arts Dance mixed things up by playing a variety of music, ranging from Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” to traditional Merengue music. Before the dance, there was an opportunity for students and faculty to learn how to Salsa dance as well.
Nicholas Collabo ’98, co-founder and head of programming at the Timeless Talent Group, helped pick music for the dance along with world-famous DJ E.M. When Collabo was a student at Andover, he was president of Af-Lat-Am and one of the co-founders of a Latino group on campus.
“The music we played definitely reflected Latin culture,” said Collabo. “We played Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. We also played a little bit of Latin pop.” Collabo went on to describe the roots of the different styles of music. Salsa originated in Puerto Rico but has roots even farther back with Mambo from Cuba. Merengue and Bachata are both from the Dominican Republic.
“I thought the music he played was definitely appropriate for Latin Arts Weekend,” said Sarah Rodriguez ‘08. “It was also nice to have something different besides the usual rap music in Ryley.”
Collabo described his experiences with the integration of Latino culture on campus when he was at Andover. “There was definitely Latin Arts weekend when I was at Andover,” Collabo said. “The Latino group I helped to form also raised awareness about Latino culture. We held meetings with traditional Spanish food and discussions about our identities, about the diversity within us. My senior year I became the president of Af-Lat-Am, so I brought our club as a subgroup of Af-Lat-Am. Our club has died out since then, but Af-Lat-Am is still doing the impossible – incorporating very different groups of people into one club. They have been doing a great job over the years.”
“It was an amazing experience to be able to come back and connect with the students,” Collabo concluded. “I hope I was able to incorporate a little more Latino culture into the culture here at Andover.”
Many Latino students at Andover are disappointed with the limited amount of Latin culture present on campus. Many Andover students do not take the time to experience the cultures of the numerous minority groups on campus.
“In Andover the only thing that sort of represents the “Latin Culture” is Latin Arts weekend, but after that, nothing else does. Most people do not even know all the countries that Latinos can be from,” said Almanzar.
In addition to the lack of information regarding Latin culture, other students notice that coming to Andover, in many respects, means giving up some family customs.
Frank Pinto ’08 said, “We had a discussion at Af-Lat-Am about Latin culture because a lot of Latino students felt that they couldn’t fully express their culture here on campus. As a Latino kid, you get used to certain things in everyday life at home that you have to give up when you come here, like the food and the language. Although a lot of Latino students don’t speak Spanish at home, I like speaking Spanish with my parents, but I don’t get to use it that often here.”
“I think a lot of students think that all Latinos are either Mexican or Dominican, because Mexican is a common stereotype associated with the ethnicity Latino,” said Pinto.
Almanzar concluded, “The weekend was a great success - everything from the food to the church service - because people were very welcoming of trying new things such as Salsa dancing and the writing workshop. I believe everyone enjoyed the weekend and left learning something new, even if it was just a few new moves on the dance floor.”