Festival Latino broadens advocacy focus and audience appeal
April 4, 2011, 12:38 am · Updated April 4, 2011, 12:00 am·
Last week’s Festival Latino extended beyond the latter part of its name to reach the broader Penn community.
Ranging from events such as a Latino food exhibition, to a Samba lesson, to an appearance by a transgender comedian, the events aimed to appeal to a wide variety of students. The keynote speaker America Ferrera especially resulted in “a very good Latino showing, but at the same time there were a lot of different faces,” Latino Coalition Vice Chairman and Wharton sophomore Dionicio Herrera said.
Now in its 29th year on Penn’s campus, Festival Latino features events hosted by the constituent groups of the Latino Coalition, such as Penn’s Chicano culture group — MEChA and La Vida Magazine. While each group aimed, through their events, to “advocate for an issue that was pertinent to their group,” they also tried to focus on a “larger issue that appealed to a larger audience,” College junior and MEChA Vice President Ollin Venegas wrote in an email.
Consequently, “from the very beginning, we saw people that weren’t Latino at the events,” Latino Coalition Chairman and Wharton sophomore Angel Contrera said, adding that it was exciting to share Festival Latino with people of all backgrounds.
Even at an event that was hosted in Spanish — a talk with Cuban artist Orlando Quevedo, hosted by La Vida Magazine — there was a balance between Latino students and students of other backgrounds, Contrera said. He added that the diversity at such an event represented the Latino Coalition’s goal to make Festival Latino accessible to everyone at Penn.
This year, Festival Latino extended beyond Latino culture to address other pertinent issues, such as transgender rights.
The talk by transgender comedian Allison Grillo, hosted through a collaboration between MEChA and the Minority Association of Pre-Med Students, engaged with the current debate over health insurance for transgender faculty and staff at Penn. Transgender advocacy is one of MEChA’s missions, Venegas wrote, and Festival Latino was an opportunity to host an event that would educate students about the issue while also providing entertainment.
Additionally, the Latino Coalition partnered with Queer People of Color to host a showing of the documentary TransLatina, which addressed the difficult situation for women who identify as transgender in Latin America.
Through this collaboration, the Festival aimed to “not only get in touch with the Latino population but also the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population],” Herrera said.
However, the Latino Coalition still hopes to work toward promoting further diversity at its future events, Contrera said.
Events like America Ferrera’s talk were most effective, as people recognized Ferrera from of her success in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and ABC’s Ugly Betty, said MEChA External Chairwoman and College sophomore Kareli Lizarraga.
Given the success of that event, Festival Latino would benefit from more opportunities with such a broad appeal, Lizarraga said.
With the 30th annual celebration coming up next year, the Latino Coalition hopes to continue the success of the Festival, Contrera said.