Mi Cultura Night might be the only time one can find free Latin cuisine, a harpist, Bollywood and hip-hop dancers, Mariachi singers and Japanese drummers all in Ground Zero. The final extravaganza, which will conclude the Latina/o Student Assembly’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage month on Tuesday is a way to get USC students more familiar with Latino culture. When the event was first introduced, its sole purpose was to bring Latino culture to USC in a fun, entertaining way. Now, however, nearly a dozen cultures are represented at Mi Cultura Night, and that number continues to increase.
“On a greater scale, [Mi Cultura night] showcases not only Latino heritage but other cultures and backgrounds found at USC,” said Giovanni Navarrate, president of Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Incorporated. “It is a way to pay homage and celebrate Los Angeles and the cultures that make up its ethnic, racial and cultural DNA.”
Hermanas Unidas, Inc., a member organization in the LSA, a division of the USC Program Board, organized the first Mi Cultura Night in 2007.
“We constructed the skeleton of the event early on. We were able to add a different flair this year by incorporating more diverse performances, not just strictly Latino in order to celebrate other cultures on campus and in the Angeleno community,” Navarrate said about this year’s event.
The club organized the event to encourage more students to learn about and get involved with the LSA.
“One of LSA’s goals is not only to increase our visibility on campus through our programming and constructive dialogue but also to branch out to other organizations,” said John Mendoza, LSA Professional Affairs chair. “It embraces diversity. It displays unity. And it creates relationships between people who embody the solidarity that is the Trojan Family.”
A member of a bicultural household, LSA Executive Director Valerie Fernandez wants to showcase the diversity of Latino culture and she thinks that Mi Cultura Night can do that.
“I come from a Mexican and Salvadoran household; both are Latino heritages but they are very different from each other,” Fernandez said. “One thing the Latino Student Association [with] Mi Cultura Night intends to do is highlight differences in Latino culture. I think it’s awesome that … we provide a more inclusive representation of different cultures.”
The night provides students with an opportunity to participate in an expression of human solidarity through performances from various Hispanic cultures at the culmination of Hispanic Heritage Month.
“[It’s] a fusion of as many cultures as possible,” Fernandez said.
The changes in demographics and student backgrounds has prompted the organizers of Mi Cultura Night to continue adding new cultures to their mix.
“Times are changing and … we have to use this as a stage to present other peoples’ culture,” Navarrate said. “We want to cater to everyone.”
Mi Cultura Night this year will feature Breakthrough, USC’s premier hip-hop group, Bollywood dancers, a harpist, Japanese drummers, a jazz singer, a Mariachi band and more.
“[We] bring in performers from the student body and local community — who represent different cultures — [into] one venue where USC students, family and anyone in the surrounding neighborhood are able to take pride with performers they identify with and also be exposed to cultures outside their circle,” Mendoza said.
The night presents a chance for USC students to see some of the ways that students from various backgrounds connect with their culture in college.
“We are highlighting that having a designated month to celebrate the accomplishments of Latinos in America means celebrating other cultures from all over the world that make up a more encompassing picture of what, not one, but the many faces of America really look like — diverse.” Fernandez said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. This night is a reminder of how people stay connected with their culture even in college.”
Mi Cultura Night comes to USC tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Ground Zero Performance Cafe.
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