UAA celebrated Hispanic Heritage Week with food, poetry and a little dance

Hispanic Heritage Week was celebrated at the University of Alaska Anchorage with traditional cuisine, a Colombian dance performance and slam poetry. 

The events were hosted by UAA’s Student Activities and Commuter Programs. The week took place from Sept. 23-26 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

Students enjoyed complimentary, traditional Hispanic dishes in the Student Union Den, which varied throughout the week. Foods such as arepas, a Venezuelan and Colombian fried cornmeal torta with meat or beans served on top and baleadas, a traditional Honduran thick tortilla filled with beans and cheese, were served, among other dishes. 

On the final day of the week, there was a student Open Mic event in the Den. Performances included karaoke, a live band and ended with a traditional Colombian dance performance by Los Somos, a youth dance group. 

Carlos Andrés Gómez, slam poet and author, shared poetry and stories from his book “Hijito” at Open Mic Night in the Student Union Den on Sept. 26. Photo by Christina Swayney.

After Open Mic, Carlos Andrés Gómez took the stage. Gómez is a slam poet, and part of his performance touched on the difficulties associated with being a person of color.

Gómez’s performance also included a lot of interaction with the crowd. At one moment, he mentioned how others can be so focused on ethnicity when first meeting someone, and asked if students could share stories about their own difficulties.

“Do you ever get asked where you’re from? Then they ask you where you’re really from? After that, they ask you where your family is really from?” Gómez asked the crowd.

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Some topics discussed and poems shared at Gómez’s performance were about racism and identity. The subject matter got emotional at times, Gómez said, but the room still remained full of positivity.

“You all have saved my life tonight. You all have great energy. I’ve had a rough week, but this is great,” Gómez said.

Gómez is also a published author of “Hijito,” which he read from as part of his performance. The book is about his personal experiences and hardships in life, told through poetry.

During the Open Mic Night event at the Student Union Den, Gómez held conversations with the audience members, connecting his own stories to those in attendance. Photo by Christina Swayney.

During his performance, Gómez talked about how people can come together, not just the Latin community, but anyone, especially in an often-isolating place like Alaska.

“Coalition building across communities among different people of different cultures, but with the same experiences, can be powerful. You don’t have to come from the same background, but having the same experiences can bring people together,” Gómez said.

The Hispanic community at UAA is present and active through The Latino Student Union. A UAA alumnus, Raquel Polanco, observed that the community has grown since she graduated in 2019.

“I haven’t been to UAA since I graduated, but coming here tonight and seeing that this event has taken place with a performer like Carlos [Gómez], and seeing Hispanic Heritage Week celebrated, I can see that strides are being made. It’s really nice,” Polanco said.

UAA events like Hispanic Heritage Week are regularly posted on the UAA Activities and Commuter Programs Facebook page. The Latino Student Union can be reached by email at [email protected], Facebook and Instagram.