Students, staff, faculty, and other guests packed into the Campus Center Friday night for the fourth annual LSA Banquet. As the 200 attendees arrived, the Campus Center buzzed with chatter and music. While they decided where to sit, guests mingled and listened to the opening music. Once all the guests filed in, the celebration began.
Throughout the night, guest speakers shared stories about their heritage and connections to Latino culture. Senior Keyri Lopez-Godoy shared an “I am” poem about her experiences as an immigrant from El Salvador. “I am Keyri Lopez-Godoy. I am real. I am standing in front of you. I am DACAmented and a daughter of God He loves,” she said to conclude her poem.
Lopez-Godoy has attended the banquet every year that she has been at EMU. “It’s wonderful. I get to celebrate culture. And it’s not just [my family’s culture] but it’s every Latin American culture [that] is celebrated or pinpointed. And it allows people to come together and acknowledge that there are differences [in culture] and they are beautiful differences,” she said.
In the spirit of LSA’s theme this year, “Donde caben dos caben tres” (“There is always room for one more”), Lopez-Godoy was able to invite some of her family members to the banquet because she wanted to have her support system there while she shared her story. “In a lot of Latin American countries, you find that we travel in packs. So my dad, my brother, my cousin, and aunt [were there],” she said.
The emphasis on celebrating culture permeated each aspect of the banquet. Students were especially excited to celebrate the culinary aspects of culture. First-year Kellie Serrell and her older sister senior Laurie Serrell went to the event together. “[I came for] the food, the music, and [Laurie],” Kellie Serrell said.
The food was catered by five different local restaurants: Pollo A La Brasa, El Milagro, Arepas Las Chamas, El Charro, and La Morena. Alumnus Carlos García made the Tres Leches.
Laurie Serrell has been to the banquet past semesters and always comes back for “the food, the dancing, and the excuse to dress up,” she said. While she checked people into the banquet, she saw others used the banquet as a time to dress their best.
Like Kellie and Laurie Serrell, sophomore Yoel Bobadilla was excited for “la comida,” he said. He appreciated not only the food but also the opportunity to connect with his Latino heritage. “It’s a great way, for us Latinos, to learn more about ourselves,” he said. “[The banquet] means a lot to me. It means that I am a part of the community.”
Junior Fred Flores-Cano also valued being a part of the community. “[The banquet] is a great time to interact with other people, have fellowship time, and enjoy each other,” he said. As a member of LSA, he had the opportunity to play violin as the attendees entered the banquet. He performed with seniors Caleb Schrock-Hurst and Perry Blosser.
After the instrumental music from Flores-Cano, Schrock-Hurst, and Blosser, Celeste Diaz stepped onto the stage to share a Paraguayan folk dance, “Mujer Paraguaya.” Diaz has participated in events hosted by LSA in the past. She continues to help because it “[makes] me proud and so happy that EMU promotes and helps us express our culture.” As she danced, the guests clapped in rhythm to the music, solidifying the atmosphere of fellowship throughout the Campus Center.
After Diaz concluded her dance, ENKA took the stage. ENKA is a local band comprised of Hispanic musicians who volunteered to play at the event. They incorporated several styles of Latin American music into their set. Some students told their neighbors which styles were being featured in specific songs and shared how to dance to them. While eating, heads swayed to the rhythm of the music, and, occasionally, students joined the band in song.
Other speakers and performers of the night included alumnus James Miller, Assistant Professor Deanna Durham, Assistant Professor Zonia Balasch Rodriguez, and a singing of “Las Mañanitas.” Miller and Durham both shared stories of their experiences living in Latin America. Balasch Rodriguez performed a comedy routine, and the final song was led by LSA members, LSA alumni, and current and retired Spanish professors. The audience was prompted to sing along as the dessert was brought over to Dr. Susan Huxman for her to blow out the candles, celebrating the centennial.
After the singing and dessert, guests were invited to stay for dancing. The dancing provided a final space to celebrate culture and concluded the LSA banquet.