The Latin American Student Association (LASA) is bringing some spice to chilly Buffalo.
Latin students have found their home away from home, discovering the benefits of banding together to celebrate culture and tradition through dance.
"My favorite part about my culture is its diversity," said Andrew Ortiz, president of LASA and a senior health and human services and psychology major. "While we are all from different countries, I feel a strong connection and unity within the Latino community. It's because of this unity and family bond that I am able to associate with people that may have slightly different ideas and traditions."
Members of the club are from different Latin communities, each bringing unique ideas to the table. As a whole, they have the ability to tie together their diverse values into one flourishing society.
Dance is a major ingredient in the Latin culture, and members of the community express themselves through body movement and rhythm.
"When you see people dance you can see what they are about based on their smile, moves, and demonstrated passion," said Alberto Santiago, secretary of LASA and a sophomore mechanical engineering major. "It has a huge impact me because even though I do not live in my own native country I always feel connected by dancing. When I dance it feels [as if] I am home."
Tuesdays from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Student Union are dedicated to LASA. The flag room located on the second floor of the SU bursts with music as members gather at the Salsa Socials, "to learn and have a taste of [Latino] dance," Santiago said. "I contributed in dances like Radiant Rhythms and International Fiesta. We like to dance to show what we are about because dancing is the life of Latin culture."
The members of LASA work together to grow, not only within the Latin community, but also within their classrooms and social settings.
"When I joined LASA freshman year, I never was in true touch with my own culture since I lived in the United States [for my entire] life," said Santiago. "I came into LASA and they treated me like family. I did not know how to dance and I was always shy about performing [in front of] other people. This club [helped mold] me into the person who I am today, who has pride, and honor towards his Latino Culture."
Being a part of such a large and diverse community can be difficult at times. However, UB makes sure to target all cultures through its events that are open to all students.
The Intercultural and Diversity Center (IDC) – located in 240 SU – hosts events in order to promote and establish a diverse and open-minded university. It is important for students to feel as if they have the ability to openly practice their beliefs and to enjoy bits and pieces of their culture that they miss while they're far away from their families.
Each academic year, the IDC coordinates five cultural bazaars, which are held during historical heritage months. Cultural bazaars are planned with the help and guidance of UB students and student organizations, according to its website.
This year's Latino Bazaar is Sept. 27 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the SU lobby. The Hispanic culture will be celebrated through entertainment, crafts, food, informational displays, music, and other traditions. For two and a half hours, the SU will transform into a world of spicy Latin music.
"I remember last year on the way to class I walked by the Bazaar and it's just great that UB gives students the opportunity to celebrate and educate others about their culture," said Lisa De La Torre, a junior psychology major. "It's impossible to walk past it and not check it out because everyone seems to be having such a great time."