On April 3, Raíces brought Latin America to Skidmore with their Arts Festival, including work from Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, and Puerto Rico. The primary goal for the event was to recognize Hispanic ethnicities as well as the many cultures and traditions associated with them. Some students recognized the foods, places, and songs as parts of their identity. The Arts Festival was also an opportunity for students to be immersed in Hispanic culture if they had never visited Latin America or engaged in its traditions.
When I heard Hispanic music entering the halls of Case Center, I knew that I was still at Skidmore, but at the same time I felt that I was somewhere else. Raíces played many dance numbers that included Bachata and Merengue from the Dominican Republic, Bossa Nova from Brazil, Cumbia from Columbia, and Salsa from Puerto Rico. There were cooking tutorials for beans, plátanos (plantains), rice, tortillas, tacos, yucca, and different types of meat, including carnitas (shredded pork), chorizo (pork sausage), salami, and pollo (chicken). I was excited to see traditional cuisines that were not cooked in d-hall. One of my favorite dishes from my home in Puerto Rico is pasteles. Pasteles are made with ingredients that I saw in Raíces’ cooking tutorials, including green plantains, olives, and pollo. I was disappointed when I realized how much I missed these comforting tastes.
Raíces also provided a stage for talented artists to share their talents and stories. Many students of different artistic and ethnic backgrounds were welcomed to express themselves through their passion for dance and singing. Zimkita Mpumpula ’18 and Kiana Doumbia ’17, whose fast and precise dance moves were very impressive, took risks as they jumped, shook, and twirled, unconscious of the small space that should have limited their performance (you can check out their talent showcase earlier this year at the Ujima Fashion Show on Skid TV). The Secretary of Raíces, Arelis Cruz ’17, sang Si Existe (If There Is), originally performed by Venezuelan singer Evaluna Montaner. This song recognizes Spanish as a romantic language, especially with the lyrics that speak of chance and hope after trouble occurs. By the audience’s cheerful response, I could tell that they also identified Cruz’s command of the song’s message and her passionate sways and powerful voice.
Students spoke about their stories from home and their experiences at Skidmore through poetry, which was an excellent leeway to Raíces’ mission to promote diversity and unity. Rashawnda Williams ‘17 shared her personal spoken word piece Black Butterfly and Lebogang Mokoena ’17 shared her original poems Sounds of Home and Spoken. Lebogang interacted with the audience when she asked them to chant with her: speak, truth, voices. She reflects on her performance: “We communicate in language and word; everyone can relate to them. I only share work that has been inspired by real experiences in trying to understand my identity and belonging. I share them hoping people can relate and be caught, even for just a minute, in a moment of connectedness.” Raíces and its performers had a lot of support from the crowd, whose final reaction was exuberant.
Overall, with their thoughtful display of HIspanic food and music, Raíces offered a diverse experience that students enjoyed as they learned more details about the Hispanic ethnicity. The Raíces Arts Festival was a great event, creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for students who miss the cultural traditions of home while they are away at school. It was also a fun opportunity to introduce students who are unfamiliar with Latino culture to the vibrant experience that it is. Skidmore has aimed to offer more diverse experiences by recognizing different ethnic and racial communities with events and lectures, like the Woman of Color Conference and the screening of They Call Me Muslim. The multicultural clubs on campus—ACA, Hayat, Ujima, and Raíces—have been contributing to this increase of cultural awareness with past and upcoming events. With the accepted candidates visiting over the month of April, these clubs and events are great ways to show prospective students Skidmore’s value of art, culture, and diversity.