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Campus group hosts 15th annual Latin Xplosion

February 21, 2010

On Friday more than 500 students packed the Auditorium to watch the 15th annual Latin Xplosion, an annual cultural show put on by Culturas de las Razas Unidas. Acts included singing, dancing, poetry, a band and a fashion show. The event is important for MSU students with Latino heritage to reconnect with their roots.

It might be a carnival, but don’t ask where the cotton candy is located.

On Friday, Cultural de las Razas Unidas hosted its 15th annual Latin Xplosion “Carnival” at the Auditorium for more than 500 students.

“The carnival in Latin America is more like a parade here,” said Abilene Ochoa, a hospitality business sophomore and member of the event’s planing committee. “Every country in Latin America knows what a carnival is. They’re all different, but they’re all similar in many ways.”

The cultural show consisted of 14 acts including singing, dancing, poetry, a band and several fashion shows.

Ochoa first experienced the event as a freshman and said she thought the show needed a return to its Latin roots.

“Last year was my first year here,” Ochoa said. “It was a great show, but being a Latina, I thought there was much more we could add to the show to improve it.”

Ochoa recruited acts from other universities, such as Western Michigan and Grand Valley State, and secured acts ranging from the Lansing community to California.

“This year we tried to keep it … a bit more cultural,” Ochoa said. “We’ve been working on this for nearly a year.”

Several organizations and offices, including ASMSU and the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, sponsored the event.

“Last year, when the director of the OCAT saw how we wanted to step up and make a change, he decided to set aside $2,000 for us,” Ochoa said. “We didn’t know this until the fall semester to give us that start.”

Tom Rios, former OCAT director, said he was encouraged by the students’ determination to return to their roots. He said in past years, students had complained about the lack of Latin America in the show.

“I experienced Latin Xplosion and I didn’t feel it was as inclusive as it could have been,” Rios said.

The funds from sponsoring groups allowed the students to rent the Auditorium and create event T-shirts, Ochoa said.

Crystal Alvarez, a global and area studies senior and president of Latinos on the Move, performed for her third year at Latin Xplosion. She read a poem she wrote about frustrations she faces with all Latinos being grouped into a single nationality.

“Everyone thinks you’re Mexican,” she said. “I want to dispel those stereotypes. I’m an Argentinian; I’m my own person.”

Alvarez’s point was made clear at intermission when five members of the audience were asked to name all 20 different Latin nations. Although some came close, no one succeeded.

“Since we’re really under-represented at MSU, we feel this is the one time of the year we can come together as a community as a whole so we can showcase a little of our roots,” Ochoa said. “It kind of gets us together to go back and reflect on our culture.”

Communication senior Natasha LaGrone, who attended last year’s event, said she enjoyed this year’s Latin Xplosion.

“It was very beautiful,” LaGrone said. “It was really awesome last year, but this year they really stepped up their game with the planning.”

Alvarez also hosted the after party to the show at Club Xcel, 224 S. Washington Square, in Lansing.

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Half of the proceeds will go toward Haiti relief efforts and the other half will be used to help build a playground in Coatepeque, El Salvador during Latinos on the Move’s alternative spring break.

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