December 7, 2023

Community Life has shaken things up this year with the Hispanic Heritage Fiesta. The event offers a great opportunity for people of all backgrounds to celebrate and learn about Hispanic culture.

Jamie Eriksen, Director of Student Activities, said that it was essential that the university worked closely with the Latino Student Union (LSU) to ensure the event was authentic and accurately representing Latinos at CBU. 

“We very much look to the Latino Student Union to give us direction on that,” Eriksen said. “We really wanted them to feel like they had ownership and input on the event. Before we made decisions, we would meet with the student leadership and kind of talk about what was important to them and what they would want to feature at the event.”

Plenty of activities were available to students at this evening event, including a salsa dancing tutorial hosted by members of LSU. 

Natalie Cruz, senior environmental science major, shared how this event was an excellent opportunity for all students to come together and celebrate a fun aspect of Hispanic culture. 

“My favorite element of the fiesta was when LSU officers taught other people how to do different dances such as salsa and cumbia,” Cruz said. “It is always fun to see people who are newer to Latino culture try to do something different, and it is something us Latinos always like to do. We like sharing parts of our culture with others.”

Eriksen mentioned that one of the main goals of this year’s festival was to provide more educational opportunities to educate students on Hispanic culture. 

“The thing we are always going to be pushing for in these cultural events is really to teach people more about whatever culture we’re highlighting, and so I think we did that this year,” Eriksen said.

Eriksen and LSU accomplished this through several ways, the most notable being a station where students could make their own paper flowers. 

Eriksen shared fond memories of her childhood and how this activity represented her heritage as a Latina.

“I know when I grew up, we would always make them and put them on cars when people were leaving a wedding that would say ‘Just Married’ with these paper flowers all over them,” Eriksen said. “So it was always something kind of special to our family growing up.”

Another way they did this was through their well-placed decorations set up throughout Harden Square. Megan Madrigal, senior English major, said the atmosphere brought the event to another level.

“I loved all the special details such as the cute banners hanging and, of course, the festive music,” Madrigal said. “Also, the décor and candy on the tables were a nice surprise to the guests.”

Part of the challenge of educating outsiders on Hispanic culture was making the event accessible to all students. Eriksen said that part of the solution was picking a location that was more centralized.

“We thought by moving the event closer to the center of campus we might engage with different students who are passing by, going to classes, that kind of thing,” Eriksen said. “So we moved to Harden Square, which we thought was a really beautiful backdrop to the event.”

The event started at 5 p.m., two hours earlier than last year, to attract more commuter students. 

According to Eriksen, many commuters struggled to make it to last year’s event because their classes ended hours before. 

The new time is just late enough to ensure most people have just finished their classes.It was also closer to dinner time so people could enjoy the free Hispanic food prepared by Provider. Students were offered chicken street tacos and a variety of Hispanic candy throughout the course of the event. 

While Cruz appreciated the fresh food and snacks, she was excited to see how CBU could partner with local vendors in the future. 

“Riverside is booming with Hispanic vendors all over, and I’m sure the students here would be more than happy to provide their support and help get some of these vendors onto campus,” Cruz said. “Many Hispanic vendors dedicate their whole lives to what they do, and being able to give them a chance to shine here on campus would be a wonderful thing.”

Regardless of what future fiestas entail, LSU creates and will continue to create an inclusive cultural experience for all CBU students. 

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