On Oct. 16, El Centro Latino and the Latin American Culture Club held a Latin Arts fair in C-120. The event was part of a series commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month. Andrea Torres, a member of El Centro, commenced the event by giving a slide presentation of masks from various Latin countries and their cultural significance. A Bolivian mask with horns and large, protruding eyes,filled the projector screen while Torres commented, “Masks represented the emotions people had, a lot of times you would see anger toward the colonial Spaniards.” More slides showed masks like the “Mama Negra” mask from Ecuador, which is worn during a festival to honor African culture in Ecuador. There was the mask of Tecún Umán, the last king of the Maya who is part of Guatemalan folklore. The mask was ceramic and hand-painted; his mustachioed face adorned by two large quetzals.
After the presentation, attendees were given the opportunity to make masks of their own. Art supplies and mask templates were at every table and participants were encouraged to express their culture through their art. “In Latin America, masks represent who you are and what you believe in, so try that with these,” Gabriela Gonzales, director of El Centro, told the crowd. Attendees worked on masks while drinking hot chocolate and eating pan dulce (sweet bread). A Pandora channel played salsa and reggaeton music in the background while people mixed water colors and passed glue sticks. “My main reason for focusing on the masks was that every country has its own masks and they are about sharing culture,” said Torres. “I’m really big on the arts and I wanted students to share that. I think as we get older we forget that artistic side, we’re not doodling like when we were kids, so I take advantage of any chance I have to get people back in touch with that.”
Aside from masks, the walls of the event room were adorned with poetry and other visual art. Poems by Gertrude Stein, translated into Spanish, hung next to a poem about death by an anonymous “Indian.” There was also a poem celebrating the Yo Soy 132 movement, a current protest movement in Mexico that is contesting the latest presidential elections in that country. Some of the art was contributed by current and former BC students, including Torres, who displayed two paintings. There were also two drawings presented in absentia by Monica Mendoza Castrejon, a former BC student and president of the Office of Student Legislative Affairs.
After each participant finished their masks, Torres asked them to present their finished work to the rest of the crowd, and all were met with applause. The attendees included both students and staff. Fadrian Hartono, a student, commented: “I’m just interested in coming to these events. They are always fun and there’s food.” Multicultural Support Staff Member Trista Olson said: “I think it’s cool, I want to sit here and paint all day. I marked off this whole chunk of time from my calendar. I came to support MCS and the Latino Community.”
For information on more upcoming events from El Centro and LACC, students are encouraged to visit their offices at Student Programs in the L building or to visit El Centro’s Facebook page, under the name, “Bellevue College El Centro Latino.”