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Sunday February 5th

Carnaval brings Latinx cultures and communities to UNC

El Pueblo Salvadoreño performs a traditional Salvadorian dance at Carnaval at Alderman Quad on Sunday Oct. 15.
Buy Photos El Pueblo Salvadoreño performs a traditional Salvadorian dance at Carnaval at Alderman Quad on Sunday Oct. 15.

The Alderman quad echoed with the sounds of Latin music and excited voices Sunday afternoon as the Carolina Hispanic Association hosted Carnaval, its annual celebration of Latinx culture.

Carnaval is CHispA’s annual culmination to Hispanic Heritage Month — held on the last day of the celebration — and includes performances, food, games and information tables for CHispA’s partner organizations.

Isabel Salas is the chair for the cultura subcommittee of CHispA, and is the chief planner for Carnaval. She said she has planned Carnaval since this summer and has worked with the cultura committee for the past couple months.

The event was donation-based. She estimates the event cost was $500, and some of the performers provided their services free of charge.

“Most people were generous in our community,” she said. “They really want to help celebrate Latinx Heritage Month and they’re willing to perform to celebrate the culture and the beauty of it all.”

Among the performers were El Pueblo Salvadoreño, Omega Phi Beta, Qué Rico and Flor y Canto. The performers demonstrated dances from various countries and cultures, including indigenous cultures.

“My twist on Carnaval focuses on our culture, but also has an emphasis on our roots,” she said. “To be Latino is a mix — you aren’t just one thing. Many people have indigenous roots.”

Carlos Restrepo is on CHispA’s Cultura committee and was the committee chair last year. Restrepo said he was proud of how Carnaval has grown in the years he has been involved.

“It’s actually gotten a little bit bigger, because we’ve involved more people and more organizations,” he said. “I’m just amazed by how many people were able to make it.”

Restrepo said around 300 people attended the event this year, the largest crowd they've had. He credits the high turnout at Carnaval to CHisPa involving more community members and organizations than in past years. 

He said the cultura committee is proud to have more families attending Carnaval this year because it brings the Latinx community together at UNC, a place where students may not feel their culture is represented. He thinks Carnaval can help increase the Latinx student population at UNC.

“We want to expose more Latinx students to this University so they get to take advantage of the same opportunities as we did,” he said.

Restrepo said events like Carnaval also help promote local Latinx businesses and connect local business owners to the UNC community. If students know local businesses serve food representing their heritage, they feel more welcome in the area, he said.

Food vendors at the event served pupusas, Argentinean empanadas, paletas and Cuban beans and rice. Additionally, Mediterranean Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill and So Good Pupusas donated food to Carnaval.

Some attendees came to Carnaval to support the performers. Summer Cottrell, a first-year majoring in psychology, said she came to support her friend who dances with Qué Rico, a salsa and bachata dance team. Her favorite part of Carnaval was the celebratory mood, she said.

“It’s very aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “There’s lots of really beautiful colors, and everyone seems really excited, so the atmosphere is really great.”

Salas said she thought Carnaval was a success in its popularity, but it was also a personal triumph for her, not only because she planned the event, but because it resonates with her emotionally.

“I think Carnaval is something special to my heart," she said. "It’s a way for us students to have something of home with us on campus."

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