Every year, the Brandeis Latinx Student Organization holds their cultural show performance, Incendio, to showcase Latinx artists and activists who strive to bring attention and change to the issues impacting their community. The theme this year was “Golden Touch,” honoring the important works of individual members within Latinx culture. BLSO continues to be a significant part of the Brandeis community and their events help to engage and interact with students to learn and appreciate the Latinx culture and traditions. 

Levin Ballroom was decorated with natural imagery. The backdrop spelled out “Incendio” with green and floral accents. The ceiling was lit with fairy lights, underscoring the golden theme of the night. Tables were spread out with program pamphlets as well as centerpieces that coordinated with the overall design of the room. All in all, the room felt warm because of the glow from the lights and cheerful company. 

Through dance and spoken word, Incendio captivated the audience and allowed us to get an in-depth look at what it means to be Latinx. First up was Sabor Latino, a dance group at Boston University whose mission is to spread and promote the Latinx culture through different styles of movement. Their performance featured various kinds of dancing in the Latinx community. As an audience member, I was able to get a sense of this aspect of Latinx culture through their beautiful and powerful routines. Dance is an incredibly important part of Latinx heritage, and the fact that they were able to travel from Boston University to be a part of the event is a true testament to the supportive and close-knit Latinx community. 

Following Sabor Latino, Maria Aranibar Landeo ’22 debuted her poetry, which referenced her experience as a former undocumented citizen and which questioned the meaning of “Latinidad,” as well as her own identity. The delivery of her performance was moving and emotional, clearly impacting the audience as she was met with enormous applause and support. Through poetry, Landeo was able to find her own distinct way to connect with others and help bring attention to ongoing social and cultural issues within the Latinx community. 

Then, Latinxtreme performed an act with dance styles influenced by Afro and Indigenous roots. Latinxtreme is a dance group under BLSO and is the only Latinx dance group on Brandeis’ campus. They wanted to showcase the diversity of the styles of dance in the modern era. 

In an interview with the Justice, Sarah Grado ’21, a member of Latinxtreme and one of the event coordinators for BLSO commented, “We are proud to be able to show the variation of dances in different Latinx countries. We hope that through Incendio that we are able to get more Latinx students to be involved in BLSO. I am really proud of how far we have come as a club, and how many events we were able to hold this semester.”

One of the main events of the night was the short animated film “Orlando,” created by Vincente Cayuela ’22. Cayuela is a digital creator and illustrator from Santiago de Chile and is also a student at Brandeis. The film was a call to action against gun violence and in support of LGBTQ+ issues in the United States with direct references to the 2017 Orlando nightclub shooting. That tragic incident is important to the Latinx community because most victims in the attack were Hispanic. The video featured audio and video clips from the incident, which was paired with EDM playing in the background as a reference to the nightclub setting in which the act of terror occurred. In addition, words such as “GUN CONTROL NOW” and “MAKE IT STOP” flashed on the screen in front of the audience. In an interview with the Justice, Jonah Nguyen ’21, student and friend of Cayuela’s, commented that “[Cayuela’s] ‘Orlando’ short film gives an artistic taste on the current issues we have in America. It also demonstrates that we must never forget about the history of Pulse Orlando and the importance of gun control. The film made me feel like I was there. The feeling and sensation in the video corresponded to what it must have felt like to be at Pulse Orlando during that time. It was very emotional and breathtaking.” The music and the visuals made an important and necessary statement: gun violence and LGBTQ+ rights remain ongoing issues in our culture that need to be addressed seriously.

Afterwards, there was a brief intermission with catered food from Los Chamos, a local restaurant that serves authentic Venezuelan cuisine. The menu included tequeños con guayaba (fried cheese sticks with guava), white rice and arepas (cornmeal cakes) with a choice of black beans, pork or chicken. Drinks included Frescolita soda, which is the Venezuelan version of Coca Cola. Overall, the food and drinks tasted amazing, particularly the tequeños con guayaba. In my opinion, guava jam is severely underrated. More importantly, however, the meal celebrated Venezuelan culture and showed continued support for the Latinx community. 

Incendio 10.19.19 NZ 0376.jpg

TREATS AND BEVERAGES: A local restaurant provided authentic Venezuelan dinner for the show’s attendees.

After enjoying a delicious dinner, Kaos Kids were asked to come on-stage to perform their dance. Kaos Kids is a hip-hop dance group that performs and teaches all over Brandeis’ campus as well as other universities around the Boston area. Although Kaos Kids is a group of 22 performers, four of them represented the team with a choreographed piece to the popular song “Bum Bum Tam Tam,” recorded by Brazilian artist MC Fioti. Their modern hip-hop dance piece was an ode to the ever-evolving Latinx community and their songs that are listened to and performed at a global scale. The dancers and their well executed moves were a delight to watch, especially in the presence of other students and friends who enthusiastically cheered them on. 

Incendio 10.19.19 NZ 0480.jpg

A DIFFERENT VIBE: Kaos Kids showcased the modern side of Latinx music and dance.

Kaliente, a dance team from Northeastern University, followed Kaos Kids with renditions of classic dance stylistics such as Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and Casino Rueda. Their mission is to promote Latin American heritage through their performances. While the group is comprised of various students of diverse backgrounds, they are all connected through their love for dance and Latinx culture. 

The surprise of the night was that Latinxtreme performed one more act after Kaliente. The encore was well received by the audience, and was also the last dance for the night. Overall, the dances at Incendio were all incredibly organized, and it showed in their performance that the members of each troupe put a lot of time and effort into their acts. 

Last but not least, Ana Saldivar-Christilles ’18 performed their lip sync act dressed in drag. Saldivar-Christilles graduated from Brandeis in 2018 and is currently with the Turmohel drag troupe in Boston. While their performance was initially cut short due to technical difficulties, the audience made up for it by clapping and cheering for both them and Student Production Services as they fixed the audio. Luckily, the sound came back on, and Saldivar-Christilles was able to finish their act. The support and encouragement from the crowd,  as well as from BLSO members, perfectly captured the essence of the Latinx community. 

Incendio was a success in bringing Brandeis students from different countries to experience Latinx culture. BLSO brought a sense of community and unity to our campus that remains a cornerstone of our school’s philosophy. I highly recommend that students look out for BLSO’s upcoming events throughout the semester, which can be found on their Facebook or Instagram pages.

— Editor’s Note: Vincente Cayuela ’22 is a cartoonist for the Justice.