By Elizabeth Haas
UNH students clustered around tables admiring the array of Latin American flags and eating sweet plantains with beef and cheese to the beat of a live Mariachi band.
“This is so much better than what I was going to make for dinner,” said junior Emily Blain.
Blain and over 180 other UNH students gathered in the Granite State Room at 7 p.m. on Tuesday for the annual Latino Heritage Dinner hosted by MOSAICO, UNH’s Latino/Latina student organization. The dinner celebrated Latino Heritage Month with traditional Mexican, Columbian, Brazilian and Dominican dishes, a live Mariachi band and a presentation by UNH Spanish professor Daniel Chavez.
Tickets for the dinner, MOSAICO’s biggest event of the fall semester, were free for students and could be purchased online or from the UNH Ticket Office. Non-student tickets cost four dollars.
“We use the celebration to educate the community and introduce them to [Latino] culture,” said Iliana Espaillat, MOSAICO’s program coordinator. “It’s an opportunity for us to express ourselves on campus and show people who we are though the event.”
When the doors opened, students were invited to sit themselves around tables decorated with bouquet centerpieces and were challenged to identify as many Latin and Central American countries on a map as they could. Next, Chavez gave a brief history of the Latino presence in the United States, ending with an explanation of what he believes the defining characteristics of the American Latino population.
“We are not arriving,” said Chavez. “We are not just now scratching the mainstream of social and politic presence. We have been here all along. To be Latino today, as it was 200 years ago, is to organize ourselves, to participate, to cooperate with those in need, inside and outside of our group. We are eager to organize ourselves not just to survive, but to thrive and share.”
After Chavez’s speech, tables were called to the buffet to sample food catered from four local Latin American restaurants while the Mariachi band, Mariachi Estrellas de Boston, took the stage.
Blain attended the dinner last year and was eager to bring more friends along this time.
“At first I was hesitant,” Blain said. “I’m not Latina, but it’s free dinner, and we’re in college.”
“I’m Dominican, so I was like, ‘why not?’” said freshman Sharil Deleon. “I like the music, and I like how everyone’s interacting. There are so many (cultural) events that many students ignore, but I go to most of them. It’s entertaining.”
After dinner, some students lingered around their tables chatting while others got up to dance.
“Every student should come next year,” said sophomore Sarah Novia. “Everything that happened was totally new to me. I’m out of my element, but that’s why I like it. I’m coming back.”