From Great Hall screenings of documentaries noting the rise and fall of stars like Ritchie Valens and Selena to world-class salsa dancers offering free lessons, there has been a noticeable Latin flair at Salisbury University as of late.
Hispanic Heritage Month has come to a close, but the focus is on the Latin world all semester long, as the cultural series for this fall semester focuses on Latin America.
This focus on Latin America comes at an eventful time for the region.
Elections in Venezuela and Brazil over the last year have made international headlines, and fires in the Brazilian rainforest continue to fuel the conversation on conservation.
Students and the Salisbury community are invited to enjoy screenings, lectures and more all semester long. Most events are free.
“Our mission is to provide world-class experiences, whether they are music, dance ... all different types of performances,” said June Krell-Salgado, director of cultural affairs at SU.
"There is something for everyone to enjoy."
From movies to dances to lectures, the Cultural Affairs Department has a variety of events all over campus.
Krell-Salgado envies the situation she’s created for students.
“Now where I went to college we had to pay for everything, you know,” Krell-Salgado said. “You’d get in your car to go to this vicinity and you’d pay for it. So it wasn't always easy for students.”
The Cultural Affairs Department is in charge of bringing entertainment to campus in the form of cultural enrichment.
To Krell-Salgado, creating low-cost or cost free engagements for students is vital to its goal.
“Cost should never be a factor for a student coming, and costs should never be a factor
for someone to get enrichment,” Krell-Salgado said.
Krell-Salgado notes that for SU, planning a steady stream of cultural enrichment is vital, noting that Salisbury is a far departure from an artsy metropolis.
“This is a rural area,” Krell-Salgado said. “You don’t have theaters here.”
Theaters are not the only thing in short supply in the Salisbury area.
According to the 2010 Census, the Hispanic population made up 8.2 percent of Maryland’s population. But on the Eastern Shore, no county boasts a Hispanic population above 5%.
The student body at SU reflects similarly. According to College Factual, only 4% of SU students identify as Hispanic or Latino.
This can lead to feelings of being alone in a crowd.
“Honestly, when I started school here at SU, I thought I was the only Latino person on campus,” said Karen Jimenez, a Spanish as a secondary language major and president of the Organization of Latin American Students at SU.
Jimenez is from Mexico. Having spent time in Mexico, El Paso, Texas and the Eastern Shore, she has experienced being Latina from various angles.
This perspective drives her to inform and educate people about her heritage.
“Here in Salisbury, we have a very small Latinx population and community, so I believe that bringing up issues and talking about those issues here on campus is very, very important because not everyone knows about them,” Jimenez said.
When people don’t have a chance to authentically interact with a culture, often all they’re left with is stereotypes or a commercialized interpretation.
Jimenez can think of one slight in particular.
“For example, you go to Taco Bell and you get the tacos with some hard shells, but the authentic tacos come in a soft shell, you know?”
Many of the events hosted by the Cultural Affairs department are free, and all of them can be found on the master calendar on the SU website.
By K.B. MENSAH
Featured image: Canoge - Pena image.