By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor
Murray State students came together for a night of authentic Latin foods, cultural dances and traditional board games for the annual Sabor Latino hosted by Sueño Latino, the Hispanic club in the office of Multicultural Affairs, on Friday in the Curris Center Ballroom.
The event is usually put on in the fall semester but was pushed to spring to allow for more planning, said S.G. Carthell, senior director for diversity initiatives.
“Whenever [an event] is in the spring, I don’t know, it seems like it’s so much better,” Carthell said.
The reason for this, he believes, is later in the fall people try to get ready for the winter, and when students get into the spring, they come back from break and there’s “a kind of excitement to come together and do things.”
?He said it was also better to have it in the spring as there are currently exchange students from Honduras and other countries at Murray State who were able to participate at the event.
?The event began with an introduction from President Bob Davies welcoming the crowd with Hispanic student Zuleyka Valdes as his translator.
“Tonight is about sharing culture,” Davies said. “In these times, we must continue to come together because that is what America is about.”
?The next item on the agenda was a famous Latin board game called La Loteria, which is very similar to bingo. After prizes were awarded to the game winners, authentic traditional Latin food was served. As people indulged in the dishes, they applauded Valdes while she sang a Spanish song. Presentations from different countries then ensued, with Nicaraguan exchange students presenting on their country and performing traditional Nicaraguan dances. As Panama, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Honduras gave their presentations, they touched on each of their country’s foods, festivities and history.
Don Robertson, vice president of student affairs, said he has been to all three of the Sabor Latino events, including this one. He said it’s one of the traditions he looks forward to, and it is very important.
“It’s a great event, so I mark it early on my calendar so I can be here,” he said. “It’s once again the sharing of culture with our American students and a way of celebrating a different culture. It also shows the students from different countries how important they are to us, so we want to help them feel welcome.”
Sabor Latino is one of the many events the Office of Multicultural Affairs sponsors, and Carthell said it’s designed to build a critical mass. The event allows students to have certain affinities and come together and participate without a lot of pressure or worrying about budget.
“We cover everything for them, and it’s also a retention piece for us because we get them connected to our resources in the office,” Carthell said.
The event is free, but the office budgets for these types of cultural events. Carthell said they also have very generous alumni who donate to the office as well.
“We get support from student affairs, but I budget for this, I mean this is a part of our office, part of what we do,” Carthell said. “There is a pretty good cost to it, but if you look around the room you can see that it’s worth it. This is what makes it amazing: when everybody shows up.”
He said the first time they put on the event, it was in the dance lounge, and the response was good.
“We had a really good crowd and, of course, you know our Hispanic progress is really small here, so to have support like this is really important for the students so they can see they are valued,” Carthell said.
The Sueño Latino club consists of about five or six students, even though there are around 60-70 Latin students on campus. Carthell said scheduling conflicts can make it quite difficult to get all the students together. He said the students play a big role, especially because the office has only two staff members. He brought his leadership team – a group of volunteering students – to help with the event.
“It’s just another opportunity afforded for people to learn about different cultures from a hands-on perspective; we see students and cultures from their eyes as well,” he said.
Robertson gave the parting words as the event came to a close, thanking everyone for taking the chance to appreciate different cultures.
Osvaldo Rojas, junior from Murray, was one of the many attendees at Sabor Latino. It was his second time attending the event, and he said it was much bigger than last year’s. Rojas said he liked that it got people involved in learning different cultures and not just one specifically.
“I think especially for exchange students, sometimes they may feel like they are not as involved with the university,” he said. “So I think events like this helps bring everyone closer together, and it makes them feel part of the Murray State experience and not just that they’re visiting, but that they’re actually welcome here.”