An exhibit celebrating Dominican independence this weekend marked the biggest recent event hosted by La Casa Cultural to commemorate the heritage of Latin American people hailing from places other than Puerto Rico or Mexico, students said Friday.

Coordinated by Luis Vasquez ’07 and Yalina Disla ’07, the exhibit’s Friday opening featured dinner from El Caribe Restaurant, a guided tour and a movie screening.

About 40 to 50 members of the New Haven and Yale communities visited the exhibit on Friday, said Rosalinda Garcia, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Latino and Native American cultural houses.

American Studies professor Patricia Pessar, who was interviewed by a student for a feature in the exhibit, said the event asserted the importance of Latin American students from places other than Puerto Rico and Mexico.

“I’ve been at Yale for 11 years now and there has always been a question of where students that are from the Caribbean fit into the cultural houses,” Pessar said. “This is really a pioneering event for La Casa and for Yale.”

Garcia said she was particularly pleased that La Casa hosted an event organized entirely by students and that the exhibit featured photographs taken by one of the students on her winter break trip to the Dominican Republic.

Disla, who took the pictures for the exhibit, created a display to commemorate “El Carnival,” an annual Feb. 27 event celebrating the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti. As part of the exhibit, Disla displayed traditional carnival masks made by two Fair Haven middle school students.

Latino ethnic counselor Joshua Rodriguez ’04, who said he is of Dominican origin, said the event marked the first time he could remember Dominican culture specifically commemorated at La Casa.

“The Mexican and Puerto Rican communities are the largest Latino communities [at Yale], and so the events at La Casa have generally centered around their traditions,” Rodriguez said. “This is the first time in four years that I’ve been to an event where some other group has been represented.”

Tiffany Lu ’06 said she enjoyed the Dominican dishes at the event. Coordinators served plantains, salad, two types of rice, beans and casabe, a type of bread made traditionally from yuca by Taino Indians.

During the tour of the exhibit, Disla briefly described the history of the Dominican Republic. She said baseball was introduced to the island by Cubans formerly introduced to the sport by Americans.

“No matter how poor the town, it will have a neatly kept baseball field,” Disla said. “A lot of baseball fields are kept by American baseball players.”

Aside from baseball players Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez, the photo exhibit featured pictures of other famous Dominicans, including fashion designer Oscar de la Renta and 2003 Ms. Universe Amelia Vega.

As part of the Dominican exhibit, students in attendance watched “In the Time of the Butterflies,” a film based on the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who were murdered in 1960 for defying the government of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

“[The Mirabal sisters] were literally responsible for overthrowing the dictator,” Disla said, “They organized secret meetings all over the country, and the code name for them was ‘las mariposas’ — the butterflies.”

The exhibit will be on display until April 15, Garcia said.