Featured (List) Features

Residential Life and Intercultural Center Host Second-Annual Viva Latin Festival

On Oct. 4, Residential Hall Association (RHA) and the Intercultural Center (IC) hosted the second-ever VIVA Latin Festival on the Residential Quad. To celebrate the conclusion of Latinx Heritage Month, this new festival brings students together to celebrate Latin culture with food and live musical performances and to enjoy a beautiful night on the Quad with friends.

Students indulged on food from Don Beto’s, a local business that serves Salvadoran cuisine. The restaurant’s owner was ecstatic to be there and could not be more thrilled for Monmouth University students to enjoy the food, especially because his son will attend the University next year. They served pupusas, empanadas Salvadoran, rice, horchata, and tamarindo. After students received their food, they sat in front of the stage to watch and listen to the live performances. The performances included local artists like Ana Vee, who sang Latin music.

Many clubs also joined in on the festivities to table for their clubs and to show support for Latinx Heritage Month and this festival. Club participants included Latin American Student Organization (LASO), The Outlook, Student Activities Board (SAB), and First to Fly. Having clubs join RHA and the IC for this event helps boost interest for clubs while also celebrating racial diversity and culture. SAB gave out international candy that cannot be found regularly in the United States. First to Fly presented a world map where students can use pushpins to display where their family, heritage, and culture resides. The IC had stickers displayed, and students also had to answer a few trivia questions in order to win a tote bag. The IC handed out punch “passport” cards for students to visit every table and receive a stamp. These completed punch cards were then handed in at the end of the festival for a raffle.

Denise Alotto, a sophomore Social Work and Psychology student, is in First to Fly. Alotto expressed, “First to Fly gets more representation by being at this event. We highlight how many first-generation students come from everywhere. Our origins are no limited, and we want to be seen and heard.”

Xena Vasquez, a senior Social Work student, is very proud of her Latin heritage. She commented, “I believe that the VIVA Latin Festival does help bring a part of the Latin culture onto campus because that is just a small representation of the Latinx community. This allows people to see the amount of joy a sense of community can bring to campus when learning about people different than themselves.”
This festival came to life because of RHA’s advisor, Maria Vasquez. She felt that this festival was important for Monmouth University and the surrounding community.

Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ed.D., Director of the IC, commented, “[The VIVA Latin Festival] was Maria’s vision, and [she] joined the planning committee. She’s very enthusiastic [about] bringing art and small local businesses so that students can see themselves on campus. We have a strong and thriving Latin community in the local area and surrounding towns.”

Maria Vasquez said, “As a first-generation college student, I became aware very early on that the community I was raised in was a diverse one and that other areas/colleges/universities did not have the same amount of diversity I was used to seeing. It was hard to explain my culture because there were things that just made sense to me that I didn’t know I’d have to explain at some point. The goal of the VIVA Latin Festival is to share a part of ‘la cultura’ with Monmouth University so that others don’t always feel so out of place when at school. Monmouth is a small campus, but through this event, it has shown the large amount of Latin/Hispanic students here who still have a story to share of their own.”

She continued, “Everyone has an individual story beyond their culture and values, so even getting to learn a little about someone’s personal world shows intent and care.”

Xena Vasquez also elaborated, “College should be a home away from home, so having a community that wants to learn about your culture and making individuals feel at home is a step
in the right direction to inclusivity. Bringing different cultures to campus is a great way to immerse people into different countries customs and traditions which allows us to grow as individuals.”

The IC is located in Magill Commons, to the left of the Dining Hall. The common space is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. If any student is looking to talk to professional staff, they are available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.