The first annual Noche de Ritmo brought together mariachi music, traditional dancing and chicken and cheese tamales.
Organized by the Latino Greek Council, the event was held Tuesday night in Bruin Plaza. The LGC has previously hosted a similar culture night called Bienvenida, said Jeannette Mendivil, a fourth-year sociology student and president of the council. Bienvenida, however, only included Latino sororities, fraternities and the council, never extending to other Latinogonza interest groups on campus. Noche de Ritmo, Mendivil said, was conceived with the goal of expanding the LGC’s networks with other organizations, such as cultural clubs and academic resource providers, all while honoring Latino tradition.
“We thought this would be a great opportunity to co-program, get to know other orgs and really celebrate our culture, the Latinx identity,” Mendivil said.
Noche de Ritmo opened with Mendivil addressing attendees from the stage in Bruin Plaza, which was decorated with a banner of traditional Mexican papel picado – or perforated paper – designs on colorful sheets. Along the stage stood tables, each representing one of the organizations present. Fabiola Santiago, a second-year English student and the cultural affairs chair for the Lambda Theta Nu sorority, said various Greek chapters attended the event to support each other by uniting over shared Latino heritage.
Outside of the Greek chapters represented, multiple extracurricular, professional and academic groups were also present at the event to talk about their initiatives. These included La Raza Law Students Association, Latinx Film and Theatre Association and Fitness Improvement Training through Exercise and Diet, a student-run program that provides free fitness training and nutritional support on campus. Graduate law students Andrea Gonzalez and Bridget Spencer of La Raza said their organization aids students with academic support, networking and career opportunities. They chose to be at Noche de Ritmo because their efforts to strengthen a broader community entail being more involved on campus, particularly with undergraduate students, they said.
“Essentially, since there’s not a lot of Latino students (at the law school), we try to build community and support each other through the difficult processes of law school,” Gonzalez said.
Other clubs honored Latino culture and history through performance. Mariachi de Uclatlan, for instance, performed two numbers while members of Grupo Folklórico de UCLA presented traditional dances hailing from different regions of Mexico. For instance, Merlene Alonso, a member of Grupo Folklórico, represented the state of Chiapas dressed in a black gown embroidered with flowers and squares. Her outfit, like those of her co-dancers, was complete with matching purple and scarlet flowers in her hair and closed-toe white shoes typically used in ballroom dances, she said. Performing at Noche de Ritmo was a way for the fourth-year Latin American studies student to pay homage to her family and its roots.
“My mom used to dance when she was younger and I always wanted to be more connected with her and my culture,” Alonso said. “Coming to UCLA, it felt like I had separated myself from my Latino heritage, so I just wanted to join (Grupo Folklórico) and learn traditional dancing.”
While the primary aim of Noche de Ritmo was to honor Latino culture, Mendivil said it was open to students of all ethnic backgrounds. She took the stage to announce that proceeds from the ongoing tamales sale would go toward an upcoming scholarship that anyone on campus will be eligible for, regardless of race or background. Santiago said the event acted as an effective way to bridge the gap between groups on campus, Latino and otherwise.
“Today, we’re just here for the Greek community aspect,” she said. “(We’re here) to promote our culture on campus, and to help reduce the divide there is between organizations, between councils and between everybody here.”