Retazos – Pot Luck, Open Mic, and Open Hearts

In celebration of the rich, vibrant culture of the Hispanic community, a number of different campus organizations joined hands and minds to organize ‘Retazos’ – an open mic and pot luck. Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Residential Life and Housing (RLH), the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and the Caribbean African Student Association (CASA) produced an event that featured live art and traditional food. I headed over to the 1st floor lounge of Maywood Hall on Thursday, September 25th to attend this event, partly out of curiosity and mostly out of loyalty – a number of my friends were involved in the organizing and performances. The event kicked off on a casual note which set the tone for the evening, with the organizers thanking the crowd for their presence. The food was unveiled, and there was the customary scuffle to get to it as fast as was humanly possible. Bearing a plate heaped full of papusas courtesy of Hacienda Don Juan (if this name does not ring a bell, you MUST visit this Salvadorian hole-in-the-wall on Main Street to discover the true meaning of life), plantain chips and an assortment of other snacks, we made our way to our seats to enjoy the entertainment for the evening.5

Carlos Deschamps, a Resident Advisor of Maywood and a member of the organizing team, played host for the evening, peppering his introductions with facts about the Hispanic community in America and the world. Diego Baraona ’17 headed the line up with a mesmerizing improvised electric guitar solo that held the rapt attention of the audience. The notes were soft and sensuous, coaxed into being with his fingers and wafting across the room to caress our senses in their haunting beauty. Daniel Padilla-Morales ‘16 sang one of the most internationally acclaimed Honduran songs – Amor Historia by Lágrima Negra – in a combination of smooth guitar accompaniment and silky Spanish lyrics. Melina Toscani ’17 joined with Diego to perform two songs from her home in Argentina. She began with Gracias a la vida by Mercedes Sosa, a rousing song with a powerful political message, which was originally performed during the Dirty War in Argentina. We listened to how the simplest things in life – eyes to see, someone to walk beside you – are the most powerful, and how the sheer fact of being alive is a wondrous thing, a gift. Her second song was Nina by Reik, a Mexican romantic pop song from the early 2000s. This song was dedicated to her friend in the most heartwarming way, drawing collective “awww’s” from the crowd. Providing some variety to the deluge of Spanish, Corie Welch ’17 sang Dire Straits’ hit single Romeo & Juliet. Her powerful voice combined with clever theatricality to produce a performance laced with humor, wistfulness and regret. Signalling a break from the musical acts, Shaniece Pinder ’16 read the poem In Her Splendor Islanded by Mexican poet Octavio Paz, a homage to women in their earthly beauty and grace.

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Carlos Deschamps ’16 closed the open mic by reading a piece about his experience growing up in New York City as someone straddling two cultures. Here was the experience of nearly all 1st generation Americans—experiencing oppression, violence, disillusionment, and the hope for a better future. By far the most original of the works performed that evening were by Chelsea Viteri ’16 and Rafael Molina ’17. Chelsea bounded to the makeshift stage to perform an improvised spoken word piece to say goodbye to her grandmother. She spoke of how she was unable to be by her grandmother’s side during her passing, and how she will always be a source of inspiration, as tears trickled down her cheeks. Inspired by this heartfelt confession, Rafael opened up to us to talk about his late brother, who had been his parent, sibling, friend and role model throughout a particularly difficult childhood. The admiration in his voice was palpable as he spoke of his brother’s daring spirit, his passion for life and his loving heart. The organizers ended the event by thanking everyone for their shared words and open hearts. Indeed, the evening had been an intimate affair. I felt privy to the lives and histories of so many in that room. The event truly lived up to its name Retazos (fragments), piecing together slivers of art, thought and emotion to form a whole that was sincere, collective and deeply moving.
– Themal Ellawala
– Photo credits: Mariam Iashagashvili

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