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Mariachi band, salsa lessons begin celebration of Hispanic heritage

Submitted by Taylor Hoffard on September 20, 2011 – 5:20 pmNo Comment

Students dance alongside the band Mariachi America during the opening event of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 15, sponsored by the Office of Campus Life. Photo by Taylor Hoffard

The kick off for National Hispanic Heritage Month was Sept. 15 and included a variety of events, with more to come.

A live mariachi was on campus for the kickoff. Mariachi America, the mariachi performing live, was at the Donaghey Student Center from 11 a.m. to noon.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually from Sept. 15, to Oct. 15.

According to, this year’s theme is, “Many Backgrounds, Many Stories … One American Spirit.”
A typical Mariachi song speaks about love, betrayal, death, politics, and heroes. Today, mariachi music is played worldwide; even in faraway places such as Japan and Europe.

The National Hispanic Heritage Month is a yearly event celebrated on campus, put on by the Hispanic Heritage Month Committee. Kara Matthews, the campus life diversity coordinator, has been in her position for nine months and said, “I love working with students and the faculty. I have an open door policy for students and faculty to talk.”

The Office of Campus Life events are funded through the student activity fee portion of tuition and fees.
After Mariachi America finished their set at noon, salsa dance lessons and food were served in the upper concourse area of the Donaghey Student Center.

Auntisa Acklin, sophomore Spanish major, said, “I can’t keep up! So I just like to watch others dance.” She also said, “I think that these programs give you a break from classes.”  The food served included tortilla roll ups and nachos with fruit punch and a cake. Cynda Alexander, a representative for campus life, said, “We love doing events for the students- we try to be as diverse as possible with all the diversity on campus.”

Kawthar Elsaidi, a senior sonography major, said, “They should have every cultures dance style available, not just one.”

Reyna Sanchez, senior criminal justice and Spanish major, said, “I love to dance, I think this is very fun. I feel at home and comfortable.”

The salsa dance instructor, Alex Labrador, is a professional salsa dance instructor. He operates his own Latin nightclub and restaurant in Memphis, Tenn. called the Rumba Room. He also teaches salsa dance in Memphis, along with merengue and bachata dance styles. Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and Bachata also originated in the Dominican Republic. “I am in Little Rock to bring salsa dancing to the city,” Labrador said.

Labrador first learned salsa dancing 10 years ago when a friend of his took him to a salsa dancing club. Labrador said, “You don’t have to speak the language to feel the music- the rhythm catches you.” Salsa dancing also gives off confidence, Labrador said, “it doesn’t matter what size you are; the music attracts you and a wave of confidence takes over.” Forcing you to interact with others, even the shiest person can overcome their fear and begin to dance; dancing also teaches a person how to have rhythm.

Salsa consists of a series of steps, which forces you to listen to the music for the beat in a new way.

Labrador went on to say that the steps he was teaching the students at UALR took his students in Memphis one month to learn; we learned it in 30 minutes. He jokingly said, “I had to start teaching more advanced steps to keep the students entertained now.” He then said, “Salsa is great for exercise- I have lost 10 pounds in a short period of time.”

If you missed the salsa lessons, there will be another salsa lesson session, “soul salsa” on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Ledbetter Rooms A and B. These lessons will be hosted by members of the African American Male Initiative.

At 6 p.m., there was also dinner and a movie in the Leadership Lounge. The movie played was “Stand and Deliver.”

There are many more events happening through the month, including a dinner and movie , featuring the film “Selena”. The documentaries “Crossing Arizona” and “Mendez vs. Westminster School District” will also be played, followed by discussions. You can also learn facts and hear a discussion from a panelist as they spread information on how the Hispanic population survives a variety of issues and challenges in our current society, which will be held Oct. 11 in Ledbetter Meeting Room A.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) will honor twenty students in recognition of their academic achievements and community involvement.

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