About 150 students and faculty members gathered at Consilio Latino’s eighth annual Welcome Day last night in Lowell Dining Hall to learn about the Latino and Latin American community on campus.
Throughout the night, students chatted with club representatives from various cultural, political, public service and performance groups. Students cheered and swayed to renditions of traditional Latin American music. An Aztec dance by a scantily clad male student was the highlight of the evening, eliciting rowdy catcalls.
Welcome Day’s organizers said the light-hearted celebration has a more serious underlying purpose. Staged by Consilio Latino, an umbrella organization, the night is part of a campaign to improve dialogue among Latino and Latin American groups, according to Consilio Latino Co-Chair Martha I. Casillas ’05.
“Latino and Latin American Welcome Day is meant to get all of the different organizations that promote Latino and Latin American heritage together in one forum so that hopefully throughout the year they’ll be able to co-sponsor events and work together,” Casillas said.
Leaders of groups such as RAZA, Fuerza Latina and the Cuban American Association said that they welcomed the opportunity to network with each other.
“Because there are so few Latinos and minorities at Harvard, this event helps us come together,” said Edward L. Rocha ’06, a community liaison for RAZA. “Under the auspices of Consilio Latino, we’re able to come together with one voice.”
Just as important to Concilio Latino’s mission is to help Latino and Latin American students acclimate to the culture of Harvard and the United States, said Fuerza Latina President Leyla R. Bravo ’05.
Though the international undergraduate population has risen by nine-tenths of a percent—from 442 to 492 students—in the last decade, the number of students from Latin America has remained in the twenties, according to International Office Assistant Director of Administration Ricardo Maldonado.
“You don’t see people like you. The values are very different,” Bravo said of the experience of coming to Harvard from a Latino neighborhood. “You start to feel, why am I different?”
Consilio Latino aims to integrate students with backgrounds like Bravo’s into the greater Latino and Latin American community.
“Latinos who have grown up in America and Latin Americans from the actual countries have a different cultural dynamic, but still the culture of Latin America unites them,” Casillas said. “They are here and strong, and we’re making them available. We’re fostering a community.”
The Consilio Latino is comprised of two co-chairs and representatives of the Latino and Latin American groups, but any member of a Latino or Latin American group is a de facto member of the council.