Latino Alliance hosts celebration of Caribbean culture for Fuego Fest

By Vivian Richey, Staff Reporter

Students at Fuego Fest dance to music ranging from “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee to “I Just Wanna Rock” by Lil Uzi Vert on Thursday, April 27, 2023. Located at the Conaway Center at on 1104 S. Wabash Ave. singing and cheering roar through the halls. Addison Annis

For the first time since 2019, members of Columbia’s Latino Alliance, the Student Programming Board and students met in-person at the Conaway Center to celebrate Caribbean culture for this year’s annual Fuego Fest.

The night consisted of poetry readings, art displays, musical performances, dancing, tropical decor, a photo booth, a DJ and an overall recognition of Caribbean culture.

Traditional Puerto Rican food such as empanadas, plantains, beef stew and rice was catered from Jibaritos Y Mas.

The event was held over Zoom in previous years due to scheduling conflicts and the pandemic, said Sol Ruby, a junior music major, who opened the night with her first Fuego Fest performance.

Ruby opened the event singing her rendition of “Dulcito e Coco” by Vicente García alongside her high school friend Diego Lucero, who played the guitar.

“It’s a bolero song, it’s a bachata song. [García is] from the Dominican Republic, so I thought it was very fitting to use for this event, especially because they’re representing the Caribbean this year,” Ruby said.

Ruby also performed a street dance along with three other performers that was originally a solo act, but evolved into a partner dance.

“I’m so happy with how it all unraveled; my heart feels so full right now,” Ruby said.

Steve Brizuela Fernandez, a senior music business major and Latino Alliance president, said his goal for Fuego Fest this year was to bring more diversity to the club.

Steve Brizuela Fernandez, president of Latino Alliance, welcomes Latinx seniors onto the stage at Fuego Fest presenting them with stoles on Thursday, April 27, 2023, at the Conaway Center, located at 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Latinx graduate stoles are a scarf-like accessory worn by the graduates to show pride in their accomplishments. Addison Annis

“I feel like it was more centered on one culture before, but I want to bring more cultures together. Bringing Caribbean culture to Fuego Fest was a big risk because it’s never been done, but I’m glad that it was done and it’s a success so far,” Fernandez said.

After the performances of the evening, a ceremony was held for this year’s graduates that opted to receive a Serape graduation stole, which are now available to students thanks to Anakaren Pinto, Education Coordinator for Student Diversity and Inclusion.

Serape is a traditional striped weave pattern that is commonly used for blankets and ponchos in addition to graduation stoles. In the 1910s, it became a symbol of pride for the people of Mexico.

Pinto, who started working with SDI last year, said she found out that the stoles were not available for Latino students and wanted to make them accessible so that students could have that “lovely experience.”

“We wanted to make sure that all of our students felt included and were being recognized, because we recognize that this is such a huge milestone, especially for our students of color,” Pinto said.

“I’m feeling very good, everybody’s having fun,” Fernandez said. “I love to see people smiling — that’s making me really happy.”

Fernandez said his goal for Fuego Fest’s continuation after he graduates is for it to be a major event at Columbia, possibly at the Student Center.

“I want it to be a big event, like something known for Columbia,” Fernandez said.