Combining musicians, singers, dancers and activists from across campus, as well as the greater Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti communities, the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre will feature “Solidaridad,” the 11th annual Latin@ Culture Show, today at 7 p.m. From spoken-word poetry to Cuban skate culture, the show aims to present Latino culture as stemming from an inclusive, multidimensional identity.
Tonight at 7 p.m.
The driving force behind “Solidaridad” is the unity of different Latino groups, both on campus and off. According to LSA senior and event co-coordinator Frances Medina, this participatory vision breaks with more traditional roles the show has previously taken.
“The past years were really focused on Latino history,” Medina said. “But this year is about bringing the community together and getting different Latino organizations on campus to work together.”
What began 11 years ago in the basement of the Michigan League has steadily blossomed into an umbrella organization for University Latino culture.
Just as participation and interest have continually increased, so too have the show’s goals. This year, in keeping with the theme of solidarity, the planning committee — known as the Core — has reached out to fellow Latino groups in the surrounding area.
“There’s a pretty big Latino population in Washtenaw and Ypsilanti. As part of our mission we need to be including these neighboring communities,” said LSA senior and event co-coordinator Carla Fernández-Soto. “We’re trying to create a greater coalition of Michigan Latinos.”
Fernández-Soto and Medina both view the event as a platform for social justice in addition to being a celebration of culture and heritage. Groups like One Michigan, a youth-led immigrant rights organization from Detroit, will speak and share personal experiences about what it means to be descended from undocumented immigrants.
As opposed to campus clubs like the Latino Student Organization that dedicate themselves to stopping injustice plaguing Latinos at home and at large, the organizers of the Latin@ Culture Show broach these topics through the performing arts.
“It’s a more relaxed venue,” Medina said. “It’s separate from having to fight every day for issues that really affect us on a personal level.”
Issues like the recently controversial Dream Act, the bill that would provide conditional permanent residency to immigrant high school graduates, serve as motivation to create a safe venue for people who identify with and feel affected by problems in the Latino community to come together.
“The students that can’t go to the University because they’re undocumented … it affects their lives tremendously and they’re part of our family in a way,” Medina explained.
While the message is one of cohesiveness, teaching audience members about the varied ethnic, racial and regional Latin American backgrounds is also a key facet of the show. According to Medina, only in the U.S. do people from Mexico and Guatemala identify under the same blanket term “Latino.”
A collaborative effort from the start, the planning process — which began in December — depends on time and dedication from the students involved. The majority of the show’s acts are entirely student-run and student-initiated.
“Most acts come about because students come to us with an idea, we usually love it and we just run with it,” Fernández-Soto said.
Students from differing backgrounds will pay homage to Central America, South America and the Caribbean with acts like Salsa dancing and Afro-Cuban drumming.
From University professors to the Alberto Rojo Trio, a local Ann Arbor group, the Latin@ Cultural Show is a labor of love, running the gamut from entertainment to educational.
“(The show) is a home away from home, not just for members of the Latino community, but for anyone who feels some form of connection to these issues affecting Latinos,” Medina said.