By Jillian Wrigley, news correspondent

Centennial Common was transformed into a melting pot of Latin American culture at Carnival Latino on Tuesday, Sept. 20. The smell of cubanos and the sound of bachata music filled the quad while Northeastern students enjoyed the party, hosted by Northeastern’s Latino American Student Organization (LASO). The celebration of Latino culture was complete with food, music and a giant inflatable slide.

Lydia Vega, a Northeastern alumna and the student affairs and communications specialist for the Latino Student Cultural Center (LSCC), was working while the event was in full swing.

According to her, the carnival’s goal was to promote awareness and appreciation of Latin American culture.

“A lot of people have this misconception that there’s only one type of Latino and we all speak Spanish,” Vega said. “We’re just trying to broaden [students’] horizons and illustrate that there are more layers to our social identity. We’re not just all one specific Latino. It’s an array, like a rainbow.”

Held in the middle of Hispanic Heritage month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), the carnival used entertainment to raise awareness of and appreciation for Latin American culture. Students at the festival enjoyed balloon artists, a DJ playing Latin American-inspired music and an inflatable slide, along with traditional Cuban food and snow cones.

“We’ve been planning this event for over a year,” said Barbara Cimatti, a third-year business administration major and LASO’s marketing and advertising officer. “We’ve had it every year since about three years ago, and it’s been a huge success every single time.”

Many aspects of Latinx culture were highlighted at the carnival, such as salsa, bachata music and authentic cuisine. Claudia Gomez, a senior industrial engineering major, was excited about the festival’s food, which she said reminded her of home.

“I actually came last year and the food was amazing,” Gomez said. “I’m from Nicaragua, so the food is very similar. Cuban sandwiches and the desserts are so good; we make this stuff back home, like tres leches and flan. So it’s good to get some food from back home.”

Camila Simons, a third-year mechanical engineering major and LASO president, said she feels encouraged by this interest in Latin American culture.

“The main purpose of the event is just to meet other Latinos on campus and just to meet people who are interested in Latino culture and finding that group of people and uniting us,” she said. “In terms of the LASO, that’s a location on campus that a lot of Latino students don’t know about, so it’s important to promote that so people know that there’s a network”.

Simmons said LASO serves as a vital resource for many Latinx students and that it has a rich history on Northeastern’s campus. LASO was originally called the Puerto Rican Student Association, but the group has always accepted all Latinx students, she said.

“They were the ones that noticed Latinos were getting into Northeastern and dropping out because they couldn’t make it through they needed a support system,” Simmons said. “So they had a sit in at the president’s office saying we need scholarships; we need a place. So from LASO, the LSCC was created. It all stemmed from a group of students saying we need more focus on campus.”

According to Simmons, Carnival Latino accomplished what LASO and other Hispanic groups on campus strive to do everyday: Celebrate and spread their culture to others.

“I think the value of our culture is huge,” Cimatti said. “It has a lot of good aspects to it, like family and food and friends, and I think it’s always valuable to learn about.”

Photo by Jonathan Polen