For one month every year, people come together to recognize and celebrate Hispanic and Latin culture. Even though Hispanic Heritage Month doesn't officially start until Sept. 15, Columbia started their celebration early with the annual Main Street Latin Festival that kicked off with a huge dance party at the Empire Supper Club last Friday night. Saturday morning proved just as energetic, as the day was packed with activities that ranged from live music to arts and crafts.
Many USC students are familiar with the annual Greek Festival, but the Main Street Latin Festival is not as well-known. Even though Columbia hosts many events less than a mile away from campus, it can be hard for USC students to always know what is going on.
The students who chose to participate over the weekend all seemed to be enjoying the festival. Some students went to add dimension to a Spanish class, while others went for a few hours of relief in between catching up on studying from the first week of school.
Third-year music education student Allison Whisnant is an example of the latter. When asked about what prompted her to go to the festival, Whisnant said, "Good food, a fun time with friends and a chance to do something out of the ordinary and spontaneous."
There was an energized atmosphere fueled by the music and many festival attendees. The energy and the thumping music could be felt from a few blocks away.
Whatever the reason for attending, festival attendees were able to learn more about Columbia’s Latin American community and end their first week back to school with a little excitement.
“I definitely know now that there is a Latin community, and beyond that, I learned how expansive the community was and how lively and colorful it was," Whisnant said.
The Main Street Latin Festival was an exciting way to bring awareness to the Columbia community about Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs until Oct. 15 every year.
The Latin American Student Organization, or LASO, is one of USC’s student groups that aims to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and make Hispanic and Latin culture and issues a priority year-round.
“LASO is a student organization open to all ethnicities, races, backgrounds, and identities,” Janelys Villalta, President of LASO, said. “The main focus of our organization is to preserve, express, and share Latin American culture. We're honestly a big family. We love each other, we love the culture, and we love to share that with others.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is an important time for those within the community to both display and reflect upon Latin culture, as well as for the rest of the community to realize how much Hispanic heritage affects everyone in their everyday lives. On Sept. 15, LASO is sponsoring a Hispanic Heritage Month kick-off on Greene Street.
“I think it's important to stay connected to your heritage and culture because for so many of us it really shapes who we are as individuals,” Villalta said. “For some people their heritage is their main identity, for others it's not, but the most beautiful thing about staying connected to your roots is that it's different for everyone. There is not one specific way to celebrate your culture. It completely depends on you and who you are and I love that.”
And do not worry if you missed the festival this year, it will be back again next fall.
“It’s a great way to learn more about a community and culture here in Columbia that a lot of people may not know about," second-year music education student Will Moon said.
The Main Street Latin Festival is one of many cultural events that students have to opportunity to enjoy and explore this semester.