Upcoming BYU Fiesta highlights Latin American students, cultures

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Student performers represent Mexico by dancing a traditional Veracruz number in a previous year’s Fiesta. This year’s Fiesta will feature performers from Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia. (Ioane Camacho)

BYU students have worked for months in preparation for Fiesta, a celebration of Latin American cultures that will include a variety of performances featuring music and dance.

BYU’s annual Fiesta highlights performances from student groups representing Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean (including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba), Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru. This year’s Fiesta will be Friday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom.

For BYU students like Carla Calderon, a Dominican-American studying Spanish translation, Fiesta provides a special opportunity to bring her Dominican heritage to campus in a meaningful way. “Fiesta has helped me to be able to share and express my culture,” Calderon said. “I grew up in a very Dominican home, so it has been less of an opportunity to explore my culture and more of an opportunity to share it and educate others.”

According to Calderon, the Caribbean section has been practicing its dance performances twice a week since the second week of September. Student performers, with their variety of backgrounds and cultures, came to Fiesta with different levels of experience. And all were welcome.

Beyond the rigorous practices and the excitement of performing, events like Fiesta pull people from multiple walks of life and create real camaraderie. Students who have been involved with practices have found new friends and made important connections.

“My favorite part has been being able to feel like we have a community. You meet new people and you come together and feel very united because you have the same common purpose. You get to learn together,” Calderon said. 

Students have found that Fiesta is not only a way to share and express their heritage, but also a way to connect to homelife. Flor Maria Woodard, a student with Puerto Rican heritage, finds reminders of home woven into the dances she has practiced for the past few months. “Dances like reggaeton are something I have always done since I was younger; being out here and being able to dance helps me feel less homesick,” she said.

Woodard said participation in the event is for everyone. “There’s no reason to think, ‘Oh I can’t dance that because I’m white, or Black’, or ‘I’m Cuban so I can’t dance the bachata.’ Everything we are doing on stage — if you are interested and you want to learn, that’s totally cool and we will 100% welcome you.”

Andy Pilarte, a nursing student and native Dominican, has also found a way to bring a small piece of his homelife to campus as he has worked with the Caribbean section. “Being away from home is hard because you are not living in your culture every day. So, being in Fiesta and being able to prep for it has helped me remember my roots,” he said. 

Pilarte said he hopes the Fiesta can unify participants and the audience. “We are all the same,” Pilarte said. “Even though we have different backgrounds and cultures and we grew up in totally opposite parts of the world, we are children of God and we can all bring something to the community.”

Tickets for the Fiesta can be purchased online.

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