by GRACE ALTENHOFEN
La Fuerza Latina, Drake’s organization for Latinx students, held its first ever Latinx dance class on Monday, Sept. 16.
The event was part of a series of activities planned by La Fuerza Latina in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month in September.
“We just wanted to plan something fun for each week in September,” UNITY Representative Denisse Lopez said. “That was one of the ideas that we’d come up with earlier, before school started. We decided to just invite people in, play music, have snacks and it ended up being a really good time.”
About 30 people attended the dance lessons throughout the night, a turnout that Lopez was pleased with for their first time holding a dance class.
“We had a couple of the executive members at the front trying to teach and when we’d turn around and see everyone doing it at the same time, it was so much fun,” Lopez said.
The class was open to the entire student body, and attendees ranged from beginners to advanced dancers.
“I just liked seeing so many people in the house doing something that was maybe a little bit out of their comfort zone,” Secretary Daniela Silva said. “I really love to see that and I think that builds a sense of community. Not everyone’s a natural born dancer and we had a lot of people who have never danced before, and it was really wonderful to see people get in here and go for it and not worry about looking a little bit silly or doing something they might not be perfect at.”
La Fuerza Latina historian Angelica Reyes believes that engaging in these fun activities is a positive way to connect with people of other cultures.
“Try to embrace music that originated in the Dominican or originated in Mexico or wherever it may be,” Reyes said. “We want to celebrate everybody’s culture. We had a variety. I feel like we will have more events that showcase all of our cultures and our music, our food. I think people can expect us to do another dance class or karaoke or anything like that.”
According to Lopez, the dance class ultimately served as a reminder that as much as people may be different, they also share common experiences.
“I feel like you learn more about [how] everyone is human,” Lopez said. “We all have our own things to have fun with. It may be different, but we still have different things that bring us together as a community. We’re just people.”
The dance class was followed closely by another major event for La Fuerza Latina: their annual banquet.
“We just have a bunch of food, we get all dressed up, we announce our education award winners–that’s for first year students,” Lopez said. “We are responsible for fundraising and we want to give it to a member of La Fuerza Latina for a little more financial help, since Drake is not cheap. We have people from our community give to us and we just want to be able to give back to them.”
This emphasis on community is something that sets La Fuerza Latina apart, according to Silva.
“Honestly, just building a stronger community both on Drake’s campus and off campus,” Silva said. “And just really letting students, students of any background but especially young Latino students who are coming to Drake and maybe feeling a little out of place at a school that’s predominantly white, know we have their backs.”
Community partnerships with both schools and businesses are one way La Fuerza Latina works to achieve this.
“We do some school visits sometimes,” Reyes said. “We’re working with the Des Moines metro public schools and encouraging students to pursue higher education and providing those resources for them, just the college experience and what to expect your first semester and stuff. We’re more than a student-led organization, we’re just helping the community.”
Anyone who wants to become involved in La Fuerza Latina’s mission is welcome; meetings are held every other Monday at 8 p.m. in the La Casa Cultural House.
“I just want to say everyone is welcome,” Lopez said. “Don’t be afraid of the name and think it’s just for Latino students. We welcome everyone and we want more people to be involved, just so we can all have fun together and see we’re all people.”