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Photo from Maritza Hernandez

Heading into the month of March, Penn students hosted the 36th annual week-long celebration for the Latinx community. Festival Latinx, a vital Penn tradition, included a minority faculty dinner, Latinx jeopardy, club mixers, and three speakers.

The celebration ran from Feb. 26 to March 2. Though the week of events and festivities is generally supported by La Casa Latina, Festival Latinx is entirely student-run. 

College junior Brianna Vizcaino, who was co-chair of Festival Latinx for 2018 alongside College senior Sam Muñeton, said planning for Festival Latinx began around mid-October. 

The main theme for the week, which the four-person board and groups in the Latinx Coalition voted on, was "Rompiendo Barreras," or "Breaking Barriers." 

Vizcaino reflected on the meaning of the theme for Festival Latinx.

“Yes, we have these chains that are holding us back no matter what, just because of the simple fact we are a part of the Latinx community,” Vizcaino said. “But even though that’s true we are still existing, we are still rompiendo barreras. That’s what we were going for.” 

The eight events were put together by around 20 constituent groups in the LC and in the Latinx-affiliated organizations outside the LC. The board got funding through institutions like Greenfield Intercultural Center and Penn Women’s Center. 

Graduate School of Education master's student Albany Vegas, who attended multiple events like “Latinas at Penn and Beyond,” said Festival Latinx allowed her to understand the diversity of the Latinx community at Penn. 

Vegas said the week allowed her to interact with people from different Latin American backgrounds, who she typically only understood from videos and other media.

“I was trying to dive right in, in terms of attending all of the events and learning about the Latinx community here,” Vegas said. “Even though I was pretty involved in [the Latinx community] in my undergrad, it's a completely different experience here because of the types of Latinx people we have.”

Festival Latinx brought in four speakers for the week, which Vizcaino said she believed had never been done before. Though Festival Latinx is Penn-specific, the speaker events featured people such as writer Prisca Dorcas and journalist Jorge Ramos, which drew in large local crowds from Philadelphia. 

Festival Latinx's 2018 board pictured with speaker Prisca Dorcas. (Photo from Maritza Hernandez)

According to College sophomore and Internal Chair for the LC Maritza Hernandez, who served as publicity chair for the celebration, this year's celebration saw increased turnout, as upwards of 50 to 100 people attended each event. 

College senior Gabriela Goitía, who has attended Festival Latinx every year and was a board member as sophomore, spoke on the evolution of the celebration, which is older than La Casa Latina. Goitía said since her freshman year, she has noticed a surge in attendance and participation among student groups in the LC, which she connected to a greater media presence as well. 

“Every single event has touched some kind of facet of Latinx identity that isn’t always explored,” Goitía said. “[Festival Latinx] always feels like you have a whole community around you, and you’re all kind of learning about your own heritage and having fun together,” Goitía said. 

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