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The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

‘Viva La Latinx Cultura” features tacos, empanadas, Bachata and important learning opportunities, Sept. 18 from 4-6 p.m.

The event, held on UA’s Coleman Commons, is a collaborative effort between Zips Activity Board, UA Latinos and UA Ballroom student organizations.
Shamna Chuwan
Correspondent Shamna Chuwan takes a selfie with ZAB president Amira Lee, and ZAB president Katelee Mata during an interview about Viva La Latinx Cultura.

‘Viva La Latinx Cultura’ offers University of Akron students the opportunity to eat, dance and learn about the diverse array of cultures that celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month on Monday, Sept. 18, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Coleman Commons.  

A flyer describing Empanadas on Wheels offerings.
Flyer from Empanadas on Wheels for Viva La Latinx Cultura event, courtesy of Zips Activity Board.

As is often the case with exploring other cultures, the food looks to be a highlight. 

“We have two businesses that are going to be coming in,” Amira Lee, Zips Activity Board diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said. “We’re going to have tacos, empanadas and rice, so I’m very excited to try those two places out.”  

The event, co-sponsored by UA Latinos, Zips Activity Board and UA Ballroom, will feature the Tacos El Mandi and Empanadas on Wheels food trucks. The first 250 attendees will receive a food token/voucher at check in to exchange for a plate from one of the trucks, so students may want to arrive early.

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After filling their plate at the food trucks, attendees can dance with UA Ballroom from 4:15 – 4:45 p.m. The dance session will begin with a lesson, practice time and then at 4:45 p.m. attendees will have a chance to show off their brand-new moves. 

Flyer featuring the food choices from the Tacos El Mandi food truck.
Flyer from Tacos El Mandi for Viva La Latinx Cultura event, courtesy of Zips Activity Board.

At 5:15 p.m., UA Latinos will hold a student-led panel on Hispanic Heritage, focusing on Hispanic identities and culture, and how both impacted Hispanic Zips when coming to campus for the first time.

“Towards the end of the event we’re going to have a student-led panel where Hispanic students on campus will discuss identities and culture, and how that affected us coming to campus and being a college student,” UA Latinos president Katelee Mata said. “I want to grow cultural awareness for the people on campus who are unaware of our presence on campus.” 

According to Mata, understanding and appreciating different cultures is a transformative journey that opens windows to the vast world of human experiences, fostering empathy, tolerance, and a broader worldview.   

“Learning about other cultures allows us to break down barriers, connect on a deeper level, and celebrate differences,” Mata said. “Embracing cultural diversity is not just about knowledge; it’s about personal growth and contributing to a more inclusive and harmonious society and that is exactly what UA Latinos want everyone to gain from this event.”

Amira Lee (diversity, equity and inclusion chair of the Zips Activity Board) and Katelee Mata (president of UA Latinos)

The primary mission of UA Latinos is to let Hispanic students know they do belong on campus, whether they are still connected to their cultural personally or not. They also welcome others who are not from a Hispanic culture to join.

“Everybody can join UA Latinos, whether you are Hispanic or not,” Mata said. “We want everyone to come join because we want to share with others our culture and we love people helping out. Just showing up makes a big difference,” she said.

Mata and Lee both expressed a desire to raise awareness of Hispanic students’ presence on campus. For Lee, the event also fulfills ZAB’s diversity mission. Both org leaders want to make sure that this event demonstrates how diversity is one of their core values. All three student organizations are also looking to recruit new members while encouraging former members to attend events and meetings.

For Hispanic students, student organizations like UA Ballroom and UA Latinos also offer opportunities for them to further their involvement in their own culture.  

Both leaders also expressed their excitement at the opportunity to enrich student learning experiences.

“I don’t think they [students] should miss anything at this event,” Lee said. “I think there are many cultural learning opportunities and many clubs that students can join.”

Juan Eduardo Contreras Barberena a Professor of Practice at the University of Akron is from Mexico originally. “Having these kinds of events makes me feel great, because as an educator, I always want to share things about my culture,” Contreras said. “There are always a lot of misconceptions about what is Latino? What is Puerto Rican? What is Mexican? What is Guatemalan? We are all Latinos, but our cultural heritage is very different from one country to another,” he said.

Professor of Practice Juan Eduardo Contreras Barberena enjoys sharing his culture. (Shamna Chuwan)

Contreras has found many ways to share his culture, including in local elementary schools through his involvement with Global Ties Akron. He is excited about Monday’s Viva La Latinx Cultura.

“These events are a great way to not only bring communities together, but also as opportunities for people in the Greater Akron Community to get to know more about how those cultures might be different from one another,” he said.

In a world marked by differences, students at The University of Akron are coming together not only to acknowledge those distinctions, but to revel in them, understanding that is our unique perspectives and experiences that make us stronger as a community.  

The Viva Latinx Cultura event is Monday, Sept. 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. at The University of Akron’s Coleman Commons. The first 250 students will receive a voucher for participating food trucks, first come, first served. 

Follow UA Ballroom at @uakronballroom; UA Latinos at @ua_latinos; and Zips Activity Board at @uakronZAB on Instagram.

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