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March 13, 2009
Vol. 50 No. 17

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Latino celebration to honor customs

The Latino Symposium, a celebration of Hispanic culture, will take place through a series of events around campus beginning Friday, March 20.

Extending the events over the spring is something new for the symposium, which traditionally took place over a weekend in previous years.

Leona Martin, professor of Spanish, said, "I think we felt that maybe our goals could be better realized by not doing it just on one day and part of that is because there are so many activities on campus now that it's hard to find a day when we can get a good turnout for all of the events that are planned."

Martin said she believes the symposium "has always been a way to study and to celebrate Latino culture and to share with the community in doing that."

Traditionally, professors in the Spanish program, students enrolled in Spanish 305 and the Hispanic Organization for Latino Awareness (HOLA) put together the symposium, but the involvement stretches beyond campus.

"It's often involved students from regional high schools, certainly people from the community, and when I talk about people from the community, there are many Spanish speakers who have been involved since the beginning and they come to campus for some of the sessions," Martin said.

Kicking off the symposium on March 20 will be the Gala Dance, sponsored by HOLA. The dance will take place at Trax.

"I think it highlights a very important aspect of Hispanic culture and indeed, from the very beginning we included dance and music as part of the symposium program," Martin said.

The dance compliments all of the other activities, said Martin, and leads into a dance performance on March 21 featuring a dance troupe called Pasos Caribeños Folkloric Dance Group, formed by junior Andy Zayas. Pasos Caribeños, means "Caribbean Steps."

According to the program from the dance troupe's performance last year, "The mission of [Pasos Caribeños] is to promote Latin culture through dance, education and entertainment."

"Our show this year will be a little different from last," said Zayas. "This year we are going to be doing two traditional dances from Puerto Rico with styles of music called bomba and plena, another dance from the Dominican Republic with styles of music called bachata and merengue, and from Cuba, the dance and music of the salsa."

Martin said: "We [also] will have Latino students from the school district coming and they're going to do a Kids' Night Out before the dance performance. Spanish-speaking students from Selinsgrove will be invited and get the chance to do activities appropriate to their age and interests with the students of Spanish 305."

Spanish 305 is a service learning course taught by Martin in which students must fulfill 20 hours of some kind of service to the outside Spanish-speaking community. Martin said that this semester the course is focused on the Selinsgrove Area School District.

As part of the symposium, students from Spanish 305 will be giving presentations about their service learning on March 25 and 26.

All of the events for the symposium, which celebrate and share education about Latino culture, lead up to a formal dinner on April 24 called "Luces en la Comunidad," which translates to "Lights in the Community."

Martin said: "That's a time when we invite people from campus and people from the community who have been particularly instrumental in fostering good relationships between the university and the Latino community. We have people from the university and from the outside community who we consider our lights in the community."

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