A single black stage stood resolute in a red-brick and brown hardwood lined room. The sound of salsa, and other genres of music, blared. Eyes around the room grew wide as ears recognized songs like “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” and “Rebelión.”
When the first performer took the stage with a charango in one hand and a rondador in the other, the energy buzzing through the room was so thick you could feel it. When he left the stage, the applause could be heard down the hall.
This was only the beginning of the Third Annual Latinx Monologues.
The Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society (PLUMAS) hosted the Third Annual Latinx Monologues on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Prince George’s Room of Stamp. The event was an opportunity for speakers and activists to engage in discussion of issues directly affecting the Latinx community through the use of artistic expression.
Student performers populated the first half of the night. Their mediums varied just as widely as their stories. Poetry was a popular format, but there were raps, songs and monologues as well.
“We have endless dreams. I am a Latina,” Jocelyn Nolasco, who performed at her first UMD Latinx Monologue when she was just in high school, said in a spoken word poem about what being Latina means to her.
From the limitations afforded to them by society, to unfair double standards of gender roles, to a shout-out to an aunt’s cafe in El Salvador, virtually no topic was off limits.
Dennis Mendizabal rapped about the way the Latinx community has been “overlooked for way too long,” as well as hip-hop’s importance to the younger generation.
“What’s the use if you can’t teach the youth?” Mendizabal said in his rap.
A solid number of the performances were in Spanish, but rather than feeling exclusionary, the meanings and feelings seemed to transcend language barriers.
The second half of the night belonged to Maya Chinchilla. An outspoken Guatemalan poet and activist with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, Chinchilla’s list of accolades was so long, it nearly took up a page of the program itself.
She dedicated her first poem to all her Central American unicorns and “anyone who’s ever felt like one of a kind.”
“It’s 2015 and you’re still not seeing yourself represented. That’s out of control,” Chinchilla said.
Chinchilla went out of her way to engage the crowd, encouraging the crowd to sing “Angel Baby” during a poem at one point and telling them if they snapped hard enough, it would sound like a rainforest.
A constant thread that ran throughout her work was the inherent power of femininity and how it often gets overlooked or misrepresented by society. In one of her more intense poems, she details the struggles of a trans woman she once taught.
For William Chavez, a senior criminology and criminal justice major minoring in
Latino studies, the Latinx Monologues were a chance to give a voice to an important part of his identity.
“Being Latino means embracing a heritage and a culture that has been oppressed historically and marginalized through the United States,” Chavez said. “Being Latino means being proud of where you come from, where your parents come from [and] where your heritage originated from.”
Chavez is also the historian for PLUMAS (Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society). It is his job to make sure that as the Latinx population on campus steadily increases, the work the organization has done is never forgotten.
“We’re here to sing. We’re here to invite anyone to come in and join us,” Chavez said.
For Erica Fuentes, a junior government and politics major and treasurer for PLUMAS, her experience in the Latinx community is directly tied to her life as a woman. Several performers highlighted the various intersections that existed within the Latinx community.
PLUMAS was founded three years ago with the belief that Latinxs on the campus needed to “do more,” Chavez said.
Since then, the organization has grown tremendously, accomplishing several feats of social activism, such as teaming up with United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization, and protesting against Donald Trump.
“Although we’ve made so much progress as a community, there’s still so much progress to be made,” Fuentes said.
PLUMAS has several more events planned for this semester, including a talk on the State of Latinx Affairs in the United States, as well as a coalition event for Black and Latinx students to discuss the historical tensions between the two groups.
Juan-Felipe Pataquiva, a Colombian-born student who delivered the only monologue at the event, summed it up nicely in his performance.
“You can’t really explain what a Latino is, you just feel it,” Pataquiva, said. “You are Latino.”
Featured Photo: Walter Suarez, who opened the performances, played pan flute and guitar simultaneously at Latinx Monologues. PLUMAS, the organization that coordinated the monologues, says the event is meant to reflect Latin identities through artistic expression. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)
Rosie Brown is a junior journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.