Students watched traditional Mexican dances and chowed down on conchas, a traditional Mexican sweet bread, and tacos at a dance celebration on Oct. 12 to commemorate the holiday Dia de la Raza or “Day of the Race.”
The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán or M.E.Ch.A, a club that seeks to empower the Latin American community, and Cross-Cultural Engagement hosted the event in Argyros Forum in opposition to Columbus Day — which took place on Oct. 10 — said Van Chung, a senior communication studies major who works for Cross-Cultural Engagement
“When Columbus came to the Americas, there was a fusion of European culture with the native culture,” Chung said. “Instead of focusing on Columbus, (Dia de la Raza) amplifies the voice of the indigenous people and honors their culture.”
During the event, junior Chris Ruiz, who is on the MEChA executive board, spoke briefly about how he had learned to celebrate Columbus Day growing up and how he discovered the true events surrounding this holiday while researching and finding journal entries written by Columbus.
The journal spoke of how Columbus and his men took over the indigenous people’s land, using them as slaves and raping the women, Ruiz said.
“And this is a man we have a national holiday for – it’s kind of shocking,” Ruiz said.
However, Ruiz said that the event is not meant to condemn Columbus, but rather to “commemorate and remember all the rich cultures and the people who were decimated by these events.”
MEChA is a club that not only honors Latin American culture, but strives to be an ally to other social justice clubs on campus who may be experiencing oppression, Ruiz said.
“We are a social justice club looking to bring awareness to social issues to the Chapman community,” Ruiz said.
Following Ruiz’s speech, two members of MEChA performed a traditional dance known as Folklorico. The dancers wore colorful dresses that fanned into large skirts, which they held with both hands and moved from side to side.
“(Folklorico) is a Mexican-Latin American dance that represents the importance of dance in our culture,” said Ana Cuevas, a junior business administration major and one of the dancers. “I’ve been doing this dance since I was six years old.”
The night ended with a performance from the In Tlanextli Tlacopan Aztec Dancers, a family of traditional dancers from Mexico City. The performance consisted of four dancers and a drummer, all dressed in authentic garb. The dancers also used hand shakers and a conch shell to create music.
“I think the performance went really well,” said Erika Martinez, a junior political science and communication studies major who joined the Aztec Dancers for a dance near the end after the audience was prompted to. “I enjoyed the dance, but it was difficult to keep up because it was so fast-paced.”