Interested in Chicago clubbing, New York-inspired poetry or the L.A. comedy scene? Tonight, the Latino Culture Show will infuse this type of urban sensibility with Latin spice through this year’s theme of “Your Country: Our Cities.”

“We were trying to highlight Latino influence in specific U.S. cities,” co-coordinator Sashai Alvarez said.

Other cities featured in tonight’s show include Houston and Miami. Traces of Latino heritage and culture in these cities are explored through unique and compelling acts that combine dancing, singing and poetry.

Before coming to the University, Alvarez identified herself as Puerto Rican but after arriving on campus was disappointed that she was considered a minority. When others would ask, she felt compelled to label herself as a Latina instead of Puerto Rican. She went on to note that people can get caught in labels, but she insists there are more than just terms, there is history and culture as well.

“We want (students) to come away from the show feeling like they’ve experienced what it feels to be Latino,” co-coordinator Melissa Horton said. “We’re trying to show how, as immigrants to this country, we’ve been able to establish ourselves and (maintain) our culture.”

Despite the goal of education, it would be wrong to expect a dry, extended lecture from the show. Unique and entertaining acts such as Nunuyorican poetry, from New York Puerto Ricans will be featured. Alvarez excitedly described the original stand-up comedy featured in the Los Angeles portion of the evening. She said she felt that this comedy will best represent the experiences of the larger Latino community because the stories are personal and very real.

Chicago’s club life is also prominently featured in the finale. According to Alvarez, musical styles such as reggaetone, originating in Puerto Rico, merengue and bachata from the Dominican Republic, have been propelled to national popularity in part because of the play they received in Chicago nightclubs. The audience will take part in the show by determining which couple wins the bachata dance competition. The intense love story between a light-skinned woman and a dark-skinned man is featured in the reggaetone portion. Alvarez said that the dance scene is important because the specific aspect of race “also plays a part in Latino culture.”

Unlike previous years, a mariachi band accompaniment is the only non-student contribution to the performance. Otherwise the show is entirely organized and performed by students. The visuals of dance and the sounds of music will come together in what should be a unique, memorable night. Alvarez said, “We want the audience to get up and dance. It is a big party. I really want people to walk away (with) what kind of experiences (Latinos) have here.”

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