On Jan. 10 from 5–10 p.m. in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom, the Portland State student organization Las Mujeres presented the second annual Latin Night. A celebration showcasing the diversity and culture of Latin America, the mission of the event was to highlight the local Latino community and support small businesses.
Las Mujeres is a women’s empowerment organization that serves PSU and the outside community, and was PSU’s 2013 student organization of the year, as well as the winner of the Marketing Strategy of the Year Award.
“There is really no other program like Latin Night,” said Pam Campos, a senior at PSU majoring in political science and the director of Las Mujeres. “The event really emphasizes how important it is to support local Latino businesses, as well as educating attendees on the Latino culture in general.”
Over 500 people attended the event last year, and Las Mujeres hoped to top that number this year. With 518 attending the event this year—including volunteers, participants, and event organizers—Las Mujeras met their goal.
Kicking off the event was a display of food from local Latino restaurants and food carts. Included in the menu was tinga de pollo (chicken in a chipotle-tomato sauce), as well as cheese, Hawaiian, meatloaf and spinach empanadas (stuffed bread or pastry); rice and beans; and cookies for dessert.
Scattered along the edges of the ballroom were a variety of tables forming an educational exhibit, as well as many paintings, drawings and other artistic pieces contributed by Latino artists.
Attendees admired the artwork and chatted with the organization representatives at tables while munching on their dinner.
A representative for the National College of Natural Medicine, Valeria Dominguez, was present at the event, speaking about naturopathic and classical Chinese medicine.
“As a member of the Latino community myself, I was definitely excited to have the opportunity to attend and educate people at an event like this,” Dominguez said.
Also present was the small business Three Sisters Nixtamal, a company specializing in the making of traditional organic corn masa and tortillas. Co-owner
Pedro Ferbel-Azcarate, an anthropology professor at PSU and president of the board of directors of the Portland People’s Food Cooperative, was eager to talk to event-goers about the health benefits of freshly nixtamalized corn (traditionally processed corn, soaked and cooked in water), as well as its cultural significance to the indigenous people of southeast Mexico and Guatemala.
Rounding out the educational exhibit was Causa, a Latino immigrant rights advocacy group. In addition to campaigning for immigration reform, the group is working for the restoration of drivers licenses to all Oregon residents who meet qualifications for a standard license, regardless of their ability to prove their citizenship or legal status.
Hoping to get signatures for their cause as well as support for Las Mujeres, Causa’s table attracted visitors throughout the event.
“I really learned a lot from the Causa representatives,” said Cody McCoy, a sophomore studying chemistry at PSU. “I had no idea about most of the issues they work on.”
After giving guests a chance to enjoy the food and exhibits, Campos and Jilma Meneses, chief diversity officer at PSU, welcomed the crowd with an introductory speech and introduced the first entertainment act of the night, the Latin Dance Club. Having showcased a few traditional Latin dances, the club invited the audience onto the dance floor to try out some moves for themselves.
Next up was the Ballet Papalotl, showing the original traditional costumes and performing dance techniques of different regions of Mexico. Ballet Papalotl has placed first, second and third in the Junior Festival at the Rose Festival since 2005 and is a well-known dance troupe in the area.
The Kemba Shannon Dance Group took the stage energetically, dancing down the aisles on the way in. Showcasing modern African jazz, this group also invited the audience to join them and learn some steps to their most popular dances.
Wrapping up the evening around 9 p.m., Luciana Proana and Dina y Los Rumberos, both family-based singing groups, took turns providing music for the folks still around to enjoy the dance floor.
For more information about Las Mujeres, visit facebook.com/mujeresPSU