The audience waited in rapt attention as emcee Edgar Gonzalez walked onto the Robsham Theater stage. The evening’s event, Naciones Unidas: Con Amor Todo Se Puede, served to display the wealth of culture from the entirety of Latin America. Gonzalez began, “Con amor todo se puede—with love, everything is possible.” This message of acceptance and unity would ring true for the remainder of the showcase.
His words set the tone of the annual culture show presented by Boston College’s Organization of Latin American Affairs (OLAA). The show made for an evening of celebration, but also of political positioning. In clear reference to the current political climate, Gonzalez stated that the United States needs immigrants the same way any Latin American dish needs adobo, a spice always present in the region’s cuisine. OLAA presented a deep reflection of what it is to be an immigrant, and more importantly, what it means to the U.S. to be a nation of immigrants. The culture show was a clear call to stand against hate with the message of love, which is characteristic of the Latin American region.
The evening opened with a performance by “Picante,” an ensemble of 11 salsa performers. Picante’s cheerful renditions of songs about heartbreak resonated with an excited audience. The group performed five songs, including a sterling rendition of “Oye Como Va.” In Picante’s fourth number, dancers from the OLAA cumbia band, VIP, and Fuego del Corazón arrived on stage along with some of the more spontaneous audience members, cheered by a highly energetic crowd. The steps of BC’s Latino community, following Picante’s spirited tunes, set the bar high for the rest of the evening.
Next, the OLAA e-board read “Translation for Mamá,” a poem by Cuban immigrant Richard Blanco. The poem, which alternates between Spanish and English, is a letter from the author to his mother in Cuba. It was delivered by the OLAA e-board with a dose of nostalgia for a homeland which supported their message of belonging to two distinct, but unified identities. They were followed by the Dominican Association of BC, which performed the traditional Palo dance in customary Dominican clothing.
After a brief intermission, BC Latin dance team Fuego del Corazón executed an impeccable number including complex steps which they performed skillfully. The performance was a medley of salsa, reggaetón, and bachata, and featured both sensual and acrobatic moves which were received by an enthusiastic audience.
Later, poet Rusty Cosino read a moving piece that reflected on race, dignity, and humanity. He was followed by Sarah Clavijo who took the stage with her acoustic guitar. Her first performance was an emotional rendition of “Ódiame” by Ecuadorian singer-songwriter Julio Jaramillo. Next, she performed “Ojos azules,” a traditional huayno song, and “Mi Perú,” both from her mother’s homeland of Peru. Introducing her songs both in Spanish and English, Clavijo’s beautiful voice and soothing guitar delivered a tear-jerking performance that summed up the evening’s message: a feeling of Latino pride, but also of yearning toward the Latin American homeland. Afterward, OLAA members dressed in traditional Colombian clothing returned with a cumbia dance. The cheerful number was closed with a display of flags from the different countries of Latin America, emphasizing the message of a continent of united nations.
The concluding acts were led by Vida de Intensa Pasión (VIP), a BC Latin dance team. The VIP guest performance was a short merengue of BC students trained by VIP members. The second dance was performed exclusively by VIP members, comprised of a medley of pop, reggaetón, salsa, and bachata. VIP’s performance marked the peak of the evening in a display of sensuous wardrobe and a breath-taking, energetic choreography, that was met with loud and resounding cheers from the audience.
OLAA’s show captured many of the different elements of what it means to be a Latino in today’s America. While the culture show was a joyful celebration of Latin American culture, it remained nevertheless an emphatic message about the identity, values, and strength of Latinos. In times of growing hatred, OLAA conveys a meaningful message of love.
Featured Image By Shaan Bijwadia / Heights Staff