Around the Yard, Spanish Class Uses Performance Art To Discuss Identity

Performing Latinidad
Josefina Báez, a performance artist, instructs students of Spanish 126: “Performing Latinidad” in a spontaneous expressive performance in front of the John Harvard statue in March.

UPDATED: March 6, 2015, at 12:46 a.m.

Students in Spanish 126: “Performing Latinidad” processed around Harvard Yard on Thursday morning, hanging signs and quotations on trees and reciting poetry and prose. Through their words and gestures, they sought to discuss issues of identity and to bring the texts from their class to life.

“The words were in the theory and the poetry, and we took them outside,” performance artist  Josefina Báez, who directed the class in its performances, said.

“Latinidad” refers to the shared experiences of Latinos, according to Lorgia H. García Peña, an assistant professor of Romance Languages and Literatures who teaches the course. García Peña said that, for Thursday’s performance, her students formed six groups, with each picking a campus location that it considered important as a living or educational space.

Outside Robinson Hall, four students presented their component of the performance, hanging a string of burlap bags on a cluster of trees. The bags were filled with personal photos, magazine cutouts, and phrases including “I am still here” and “I am my rhythm.”

“I put [in] a lot of stuff dealing with Spanish, Spanglish, and identity,” said Andree M. Franco Vasquez ’17, who labeled her bag with the words “chewing English and spitting Spanish.”

The class, at one point, was led by two students holding a large sign featuring pop artist Jennifer Lopez, which they subsequently placed in front of the statue of John Harvard with a lit candle. Báez invited members of the class to take pictures with the installation.

Inspiration for the poster came from an article on the influence of the image of artists like Lopez on perceptions of Latinos in popular culture, García Peña said.

“The J. Lo piece, I think, is more of...a feminist-type piece,” Jennifer L. Ruiz ’16 said. “A woman’s body shouldn’t just be policed, especially a Latina’s body, should not be just exotified and policed.”

After the stops around the Yard, the class convened in Boylston Hall to perform the last projects, using dance movements and accompanied by a guitar.

“I was really fascinated by the class,” Krystle M.C. Leung ’15, a Spanish 126 student, said. “[The performance was] an art project...really a once in a lifetime experience.”

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at karl.aspelund@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at melissa.rodman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTIONS: March 6, 2015

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the gender of Lorgia H. García Peña. In fact, García Peña is a woman. Also due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the day of the event. In fact, it took place on Thursday.

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