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Penn community members celebrate Latinx heritage and culture during a procession of flags on March 20 in the 40th annual Festival Latinx.

Credit: Andrea Barajas

Students celebrated Latinx heritage and culture during the 40th annual Festival Latinx.

Festival Latinx is a student-organized week of programming designed not only to bring together the Latinx community at Penn and in Philadelphia but also to spread awareness of cultural traditions to interested students. Over a dozen events took place from of March 20 to 25, including a procession of flags, student performances, and a self-care workshop. This year, activities centered around the theme “Desde el Corazón,” meaning “from the heart”.

Co-Management Chairs of Festival and Wharton juniors Sheila Pimentel and Evelyn Martinez served as members of the organizing committee for last year’s celebrations. They said that their experience helped shape their goals for the event, especially as it had been derailed in past years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pimentel said that they wanted to bridge the gap between Penn students and the larger Philadelphia community this year.

“We really wanted Latinx students at Penn to feel like they have a home both on campus and in the city,” Pimentel said.

Events included “¡Vamos al Tianguis!,” a flea market held in the ARCH building that aimed to support local Latinx Philladelphia vendors. Vendors sold books, art, shirts, jewelry, and crafts and featured brands such as Yaku Wear, an eco-friendly hat and jewelry brand inspired by Ecuadorian heritage, and Mochi Bay, a handmade Colombian bag brand. Nonprofits like Juntos, a Latinx immigrant rights organization in Philadelphia, were also at the market.

“It was very reminiscent of home for me because my grandparents would always take me to flea markets growing up,” Wharton sophomore Stefany Santos, who attended the event, said. “It was so nice talking to Philly vendors and hearing their experience being Latinx in Philly.”

The organizers said that they wanted Festival Latinx to reflect the amount of diversity within the Latinx community globally. They pointed to Sancocho Night, which featured performances from Onda Latina and Fuerza among other groups.

“We had a wide range of student performances that I think really embodied the diversity within being Latinx at Penn because students could express their unique identities through art,” Martinez said.

The event also featured a collaboration with the Penn Philippine Association. The organizers said that while the Philippines is not traditionally considered Latinx, the shared language and culture inspired them to work together to display a united front for Latinx culture worldwide.

Wharton junior and marketing committee member Daniel Trebejo-Ariza echoed the sentiment that it was important to make the programming open to all members of the community.

“We want everyone to know about our culture and history because that’s what our theme of being ‘from the heart’ really comes down to,” Trebejo-Ariza said. “This is a celebration centered around a type of love for each other and unity that extends beyond just Latinx people.”

Festival Latinx featured collaborations with numerous groups and centers on campus, such as La Casa Latina, Latin American Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, Beta Epslon Chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Minority Association for Pre-Medical Students, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Orgullo Latino Fashion Association at Penn, Mujeres Empoderadas, and La Vida Magazine.

Organizers and attendees alike applauded the festival for fostering a strong sense of Latinx community on campus.

“To me, Festival was a wakeup call to pay attention to my culture, my identity as Latina, and other people’s cultures and experiences being Latinx at Penn,” Santos said. “It was very healing to have a week dedicated to us.”