After a long eighteen months stuck at home, the student body of Saint Mary’s is overjoyed to be back on campus, eager to make new memories and participate in old traditions. Perhaps no one is more excited than the Saint Mary’s Latinx Club, which is in the early stages of planning its annual cultural night in the spring. Stephanie Ramirez ‘22, the co-chair of the Latin Cultural Night’s executive team, wants to approach this year’s event a little bit differently.
“I definitely feel like I need to make up for lost time.”
This is the sentiment shared by Stephanie Ramirez when asked about how she plans to approach this year’s Latin Cultural Night. “There are lots of freshmen and sophomores who don’t know anything about LCN because they felt disconnected from all the time we spent online. I want them to know what an in-person LCN feels like.”
LCN is part of the annual Cultural Night Series, a 3-4 hour event meant as a showcase for the various cultures of minority communities. Other cultural nights include celebrations for Expressions of Blackness (EOB), BASH (LGBTQIA+), PICN (Pacific Islander), ACN (Asian), and MENA (Middle Eastern/North Africa). Planning kicks off in the fall with a weekend Diversity Retreat, followed by weekly meetings among executive teams who are in charge of planning and executing the event.
Students who participate in the Cultural Nights are allowed to demonstrate any kind of artistic expression unique to their culture, and each expression is referred to as a set, none of which run longer than ten minutes. After coming up with their ideas with the help of biweekly workshops, students are expected to rehearse their set leading up to the big night. Past sets have included dancing, singing, poetry reading, comedy shows, videos, and fashion shows. There was even one year where they had a guacamole competition.
“That was fun” Stephanie recalls with a laugh. “Everyone made guacamole and had to taste them, but each of the plates were different because every culture made guacamole a little bit differently.”
In addition to being a fun way to display your culture, the sets often have a personal meaning to them as well.
“The sets are a way to communicate a part of yourself without having to have a conversation,” Stephanie says. “The audience knows another part of you just from watching your set.”
As the co-chair of the executive team, Stephanie’s responsibilities include working with the various departments at Saint Mary’s, including the department of College of Communications, to organize, finance, and promote the event.
“One of the other challenges that we have to deal with is the overall lack of awareness among the student body,” Stephanie details. “I want to take a different approach this year. Most of the organization’s executive teams were all seniors, so now that they’ve graduated, we have to bring in new people and pair them up with people who are more experienced. It’s kind of like we’re starting from scratch.”
Stephanie’s involvement with LCN started her freshman year, as she wanted to learn more about other Latin American cultures in addition to feeling closer to the school’s Latinx community.
“I’m Mexican, which I think is kind of the go-to culture that immediately comes to mind when people think of Latin America,” Stephanie says. “ I even think that way sometimes. But Latin America is so much more than just Mexico. There are Salvadorans, and Hondurans, and Guatemalans—there’s a huge melting pot of cultures that people tend to overlook, and LCN helps draw attention to the very unique cultural traditions of every one of them.”
Latin Cultural Night, which this year is set for March 27th, is fast approaching its twentieth year of celebration, a landmark Stephanie hopes to celebrate by going out with a bang for her senior year.
“I think it’s important to get all of the classes involved, not just the underclassmen. For my senior Latinx friends who haven’t been as involved with the community, I want to reach out so that they can learn. This is a space to bring those Latinx students back home, so they can feel good because it’s part of their identity.”
Even so, Stephanie wants to combat the common perception that LCN is only intended for Latinx students. “We want non-Latinx students to attend! We don’t have enough of them. We’d love it if the community could turn out to support the event. At the end of the day, we’re all one community. This space is welcome to everybody.”
Madison Sciba '24,