“Unity Through Diversity”–while this may seem like an oxymoron, it is the main concept that LASO is focusing on this year at West Chester University. President Joanne Garcia describes LASO, or The Latino American Student Organization as “an organization that tries to promote and educate others about Latino culture, history, and issues.” Ever since its inception in 1974, the organization has had a great influence on the university community. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the Latino culture is all about dance and food. While that is indeed an important aspect of their heritage, there is much more we can learn and take away from the Latino society. And LASO’s presence on campus aims to educate everyone–both Latinos and non-Latinos alike–about the diversity and important traditions of the Latino culture.
According to Garcia, “Unity Through Diversity” is meant to bring to light the variety of cultural differences, since “Latinos speak the same language, but are very diverse in many ways.” Beginning October 9, LASO will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a broad range of activities. They include roundtable meetings to discuss cultural, political and social issues concerning the Latino community; along with the opportunity to view the movie “Raising Victor Vargas”, and a Latino dance exhibition by West Chester’s own Mas Flow dancers. Keep an eye out for more information on these events during the week of October 9 to 13.
However, LASO activities aren’t just limited to a single week. Other activities that they sponsor include an October 31 discussion on Dia de los Muertos and what this holiday signifies in the Latino community. A salsa social is planned for November 21, and a Latino Leadership conference will take place in February. The Leadership conference is especially notable due to the fact that it teaches high school students, mostly Latinos, the importance of furthering their education. One part of LASO that has recently celebrated success has been Mas Flow. This Latin dance team, co-founded by Stephen Santa and Carmin Bermudez in the spring of 2006, has had the honor of performing at colleges such as Kutztown, the University of Delaware, and other schools and events. They exhibit a variety of Latin dances, including salsa, bachata, merengue, and bomba. Not only do they perform, they also compete, recently placing third at the annual Philadelphia Puerto Rican Day parade. The parade, which has run since 1964, is part of a weeklong Puerto Rican week festival. This event is described by one of its officers as “the single most important event for Hispanics living in the Philadelphia region.” Every other month, Mas Flow holds dance lessons to teach the different styles to interested participants, so if you are interested in learning more about the dance styles of Latino Americans, be on the lookout for these lessons.
If you are interested in learning more about Latino culture, educating yourself on different issues involving this important community, experiencing diversity, or simply having a good time with, yes, incredible dancing and delicious food, why not check out LASO? Membership is open all students, regardless of national origin. Meetings are held every Tuesday night at the Sykes Student Union, from 7 – 8 p.m. in room 210. Meetings are followed by Mas Flow dance practices from 8 – 9 p.m. in Sykes Ballroom A.