Mexican-themed sorority party raises concerns


Some downtown patrons expressed their disgust Thursday night as they watched dozens of UT students take part in a “fiesta-themed” sorority party at a local bar.

The party, put on by UT’s Delta Delta Delta and Zeta Tau Alpha sororities, was filled with party guests wearing attire associated with Hispanic stereotypes, including ponchos, sombreros and fake mustaches. The party was held at Recess Arcade Bar, located at the corner of East Sixth Street and San Jacinto Street. The sororities reserved the bar until 12:30 a.m. After that time, some party guests ventured into downtown still wearing their “fiesta-themed” apparel. Since the night of the party, word of the event spread to members of the UT community, who have expressed various concerns about the party’s intent and message.

Throughout the night, comments from downtown patrons could be heard throughout Sixth Street as they reflected on the partygoers’ actions and attire.

Bilingual education junior Luis Juarez said he was offended by the party, especially because of the apparel donned by two of the party’s guests.

“For people to go out with shirts that say ‘illegal’ or ‘border patrol,’ that’s very insensitive,” Juarez said. “It’s an incorrect picture, and I’m very offended personally. ‘Undocumented’ is the way to go about it because whenever you say that someone is ‘illegal,’ you are describing them as an action.”

Juarez said he is surprised that this is happening at UT, a school known for its diversity and a strong Latin American studies program.

UT is currently ranked first for its graduate Latin American History program, according to a 2009 U.S. News and World Report ranking.

Austinite Zach Guerinot, who was downtown the night of the party, said the party bothers him because he sees it as students making a mockery of a culture.

“It’s a mostly white crowd taking a culture that isn’t theirs and playing up these stereotypes that we see in mainstream media,” Guerinot said. “That is offensive. That is making a joke.”

Multiple members of both sororities declined to comment on the party.

Rocio Villalobos, program coordinator for UT’s Multicultural Engagement Center, said the party shows cultural insensitivity and a lack of awareness of other cultures on the part of the partygoers.

“Instead of maybe doing an event that would celebrate a culture, it’s mocking a culture, and I think that is where that line has been crossed — because it’s one group of students making assumptions about what an entire group of people are like and dressing up in what they perceive to be a costume and making fun of it, essentially,” Villalobos said.

Villalobos said she sees this party as one example of a larger problem at UT, as several other ethnically-themed parties have been thrown by other UT organizations less than a month into the new school year.

“I think this is an example,” Villalobos said. “It shows that there is a lot of awareness that needs to happen among the student body.”

Villalobos said she thinks the student body as a whole could benefit from initiatives such as cultural sensitivity and diversity training and a long-term discussion about racism and related issues.

Juarez said he also believes the student body would benefit from increased cultural training, but along with that initiative, he would also like to the see the sororities and partygoers apologize for their actions Thursday night.

“I feel like an apology is needed,” Juarez said. “I really think so.”

Printed on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 as: Themed party draws criticism