Latin American Student Association wins UB's International Fiesta

LASA steals hearts with its emotional performance about immigrating to America

*Please see the appendage below.

The Latin American Student Association took the International Fiesta stage Saturday on a mission – and it wasn’t just to win.

On a campus with a student population made up of roughly 17 percent international students hailing from more than 50 countries, LASA set out to take the audience on a journey affecting millions: immigration.

The night’s theme focused on struggle and journey, but it was LASA’s portrayal of the Latin American community that won the group the first-place spot to a sold-out Center for the Arts stage. Fifteen groups participated in celebration of culture and dance.

LASA began its routine with traditional Latin dancing, donning grass skirts and body paint to represent the origins of their culture. They quickly moved to more Americanized costumes, using bright red, white and blue dresses and an animated Statue of Liberty to symbolize the movement of Hispanic peoples to America.

Their message hit hard when the group transitioned from Latin dancing to a hip-hop performance. Performers used signs with words such as “Education” and “Jobs” to demonstrate the struggles facing those immigrating to America.

The routine was taut with emotion, bringing the topic to the frontline and putting together a performance that was not only aesthetically pleasing but politically powerful.

The event was a celebration of cultures from all over the world that brought students together through performance and music. Though not every group that performed competed, the evening provided a look into the lives of students who are part of UB’s international organizations.

“From the beginning, it was never about winning for us,” said Mitchell Castellon, a sophomore business major and member of LASA. “It wasn’t about first, second or third place. It was about relaying our message to the audience, and I think we got our point across.”

With LASA taking first place, this gave former reigning champions the Indian Student Association (ISA) second place and the Malaysian Student Association (MaSa) third place.

Organizations like MaSa spent months creating their routines and looking for the right way to not only pay homage to the theme of the night, but to incorporate both traditional and modern dance steps from their culture.

“We started planning over winter break,” said Rachel Mesina, team captain of the Filipino American Student Association (FASA) and a sophomore pharmacy student. “Our routine is about a daughter who is trying to save her mother's life by using a talisman, but an evil demon takes it away."

Taz Hossain, who as the International Council coordinator organized the event and a junior political science major, opened the fiesta by noting the importance of coming together in order to celebrate UB’s diverse backgrounds and to create a home away from home with the people and experiences of the various international student organizations.

Hossain asked the night’s MCs to host – Greg Bellanton, a UB alumnus and former member of the BSU; Allen Liu is a senior political science major and the president of Phi Alpha Delta, UB’s pre-law fraternity; and Corinne Zee, a senior exercise science major who is a member of FASA. Zee was asked to choreograph her group’s routine but could not as an MC.

The most important thing for the hosts was to have fun – not only with each other, but with members of the audience and everyone backstage.

“We saw a few of the performances last night, and they’re incredible,” Liu said. “Everyone really stepped it up this year. We’re just excited to get the crowd going and present all of the routines for everyone to enjoy.”

In addition to the five competing routines, 10 other groups performed in front the crowd, including other international student associations, dance troupes and two music acts presented by the Korean Folk Art Club and The Hypnic Jerks, a local band.

The Asian American Student Union (AASU) left the crowd speechless with a memorable modern hip-hop performance to a remix of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” The group’s precision and style demonstrated the effort it put into choreographing the routine.

“We started choreographing at the beginning of the semester,” said Shawn Uy, a senior psychology major and member of AASU. “We’re nervous and excited, just a sea of emotions about the performance. Even though we aren’t competing, there’s almost a mini-competition between all of the acts that aren’t officially competing.”

Throughout the performances, the hosts joked with one another, talked about the performances and inspired audience participation by bringing fiesta-goers on stage, giving them music to dance to and encouraging them to show off their moves.

At one point, they brought up a slew of audience members with a specialty in Latin dancing, giving audience members a sneak preview of what was to come with LASA’s performance. The DJ played a mix of songs, both traditional and current, for participants to dance to.

One participant had a special connection to LASA – she choreographed the hip-hop portion of their routine.

“We wanted to do something different,” said Samantha Pfeiffer, a senior dance and graphic design major. “We always do the ‘love story’ – this time we wanted to do something people can relate to.”

As the night went on, the performances grew more and more diverse. The Culture of Kings represented the African Student Association. The all-male group covered themselves in body paint and played the drums in a performance of traditional African dancing.

The Korean Folk Art Club didn’t dance – instead, it put on a performance using drums, a gong and a smaller tambourine to create traditional Korean folk music. Members wore blue, yellow and red costumes, representing their country not only through their music but their appearance.

“I’ve never been to anything like this, but I really enjoyed it,” said Miriam Monfiston, a freshman health and human services major. “I think it’s important to bring people together this way.”

Audience members came out to support every club that performed by making signs, chanting or just screaming a little louder when the organization was called.

By the end of the night, everyone stood together, representing the ability of UB students to celebrate not only their own culture, but the cultures of those around them.

*This article has been updated. A previous version wrongly stated Rachel Mesina was a member of MASA and a quote of hers was misattributed; the Asian American Student Union was incorrectly called the Asian American Student Association, of which Shawn Uy is a member, not president. The Spectrum regrets and sincerely apologizes for these errors. 

Tori Roseman is a senior arts editor and can be reached at