Festival celebrates Latin American culture, independence

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College of Education junior, Daniella Torres, participates in a trivia game at Celebracion de Independencias in the Student Activity Center Thursday evening. The event celebrated the nine Latin American countries that gained their independence in September.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Students celebrated the independence of nine Latin American countries Thursday night with music, food and an address from a Texas representative during the fifth annual Celebracion de Independencias.

The celebration was hosted by the Student Events Center’s Mexican American Culture Committee, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. and Lambda Theta Phi Fraternidad Latina, Inc. At the event, various organizations provided cultural information about each country and offered free tamales, rice and beans to students who went to three or more tables. State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, spoke on the importance of education and political involvement in the Latino community.

The Latino Leadership Council also provided voter registration sheets for the event. Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua all won their independence during the month of September. Most became independent in the early 19th century, while Belize became independent in the late 20th century.

“We are here to celebrate and recognize our countries of origin and their independence,” Gonzalez said. “We have to remember the power of community, the power of revolution and the power of resistance. This reminds us we have a revolutionary history. The legislative session begins in January, so think about the bills y’all want to offer. I’ll offer y’all bills or, better yet, fight bills.”

Gonzalez said the contacts she made in Latin American organizations as a student at UT were some of the first donors to her political campaigns.

“This celebration brings the community together as ‘familia,’ for you to think what you are doing for the world and what your organization is doing for the world,” Gonzalez said.

Mexican American Culture Committee chair Yadira Ramos Luna said the celebration was planned with performances by local Latin American musical and dance groups.

“All the organizations that said they would be here came even though it rained and were really accommodating,” Luna said. “I had to cancel some of the performers, but Marimba Tropical came out and played a few songs outside when it was raining before taking everything down.”

League of United Latin American Citizens’ UT chapter secretary Karen Grimaldo said this was her second time at the independence celebration.

“League of United Latin American Citizens is a political organization [that] focuses on changing policy,” Grimaldo said. “We like to come to these events and meet people and other Latino groups. We are looking forward to a similar event for Dia de los Muertos, with the music and dances.”

Celebrated in November, Dia de los Muertos commemorates ancestors and life with various celebrations and traditions.

Printed on Friday, September 14, 2012 as: Festival celebrates independence