Students learn about Latin culture at A.I.M. celebration

More than 70 students participated in the 8th Annual Latin Culture Day Celebration, Friday October 3 in the UC Storm Center and Council Hall, the gathering was meant to educate students on Latin culture and traditions.

The event, meant to inform students on Latin culture and traditions, was organized by Project A.I.M (Asian-student Involvement and Mentoring) and held in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 to October 15, said Rosa Yen, Associate Director of Leadership Development and Multicultural Affairs.

“We have a lot of non-Latino members in our group, so we’ve organized this event for the last couple years to educate our members and other students about the Latin culture,” she said.

The celebration began with students were receiving a brief lesson on basic Spanish words and an overview of Latin history in the UC Storm Center by Roberto Saaverda, a high school history teacher and St. John’s graduate. Yen said Saaverda first participated in the workshop portion of the yearly event as a student and was eager to continue contributing after his graduation.

Saaverda said he enjoys education people in Central and Latin American customs.

“In the United States, a lot of people are Latin American, so to understand and have more tolerance towards each other, we have to know each others culture,” he said.

Some of the topics, Saaverda informed students on where the differences between calling someone a Hispanic as opposed to Latino, how imperialism influenced their mixed culture consisting of European, African, and Taino Indian ancestry, along with the significance of the Columbian Exchange trade route.

Some students were able to see how this history had a lasting impact on where they originally come from. Junior Joel Dillon, originally from Trinidad, said his homeland has a very strong Spanish influence.

“Based on what happened in history, [certain locations] like San Fernando, still maintain Spanish names,” he said.

Students were also taught basic dance steps from popular Latin dances including baachata, meringue, and salsa.

“Latin dances are a great example of our vibrance, creativity and love,” said Saavedra. “I think music unites people salsa, meringue, and baachata unites people from other cultures to try it and to enjoy it.”

By the end of the evening, many students felt more confident and comfortable interacting with people outside of their own culture.

“Being an international student I was new, I was shy. I was scare to talk with people,” said student Parth Thaker, originally from India. “Then I joined Project A.I.M. They broke my barrier, so now I don’t feel anything. I just talk with people.”