Daliya El Abani, Contributing Photographer

This piece was published as part of the News’ 2022 Lifting Up Latinx Identity special issue, celebrating Latinx Heritage Month from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15.

The Underground filled with students and families Saturday night gathering for a diverse set of performances from Latinx talents.

The sold-out LatinXcellence showcase, organized by La Casa Cultural Center as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, brought singers, bands, spoken word poets, comedians and artists to the Schwarzman Center, marking the event’s first in-person iteration since its establishment in 2019. Acts and exhibitions centered around Latinx life, with traditional salsa and bachata rhythms flowing through a space vividly decorated with student artwork.

“This is an artistic space where Latinas take up space outside of La Casa,” said Eileen Galvez, the director of La Casa Cultural Center and an assistant dean of Yale College. 

This year’s event coincided with Family Weekend. The LatinXcellence Showcase was first held in the fall of 2019 at the Crescent Underground Theater. The initiative was brought forth by a student who found the Latinx community lacked a space to present their work beyond La Casa, Galvez said.

Galvez recalled that numerous students immediately jumped on board with the idea as performers. The venue that year was “packed” with audience members, as musical performances turned into impromptu dance halls.

“It was a lovely, warm and beautiful space where people were affirmed in who they are, in their cultures and in their identities,” Galvez said. 

Daliya El Abani, Contributing Photographer

Over the COVID-19 pandemic, La Casa hosted the showcase virtually. 

The showcase is an entirely student-driven project, Galvez emphasized. She added that her favorite part is giving students the opportunity to personalize it in ways that feel most natural and relevant without strict guidance. 

Jaden González ’25, a student coordinator at La Casa, co-coordinated the showcase alongside Sebastián Eddowes Vargas DRA ’24, a graduate assistant at La Casa. They were in charge of finding artists, providing the platform and organizing the full event.

As the heart of campus, the Schwarzman Center was a deliberately chosen location, González said.

“La Casa is just off campus, so it is really important for Latinos to know that they are allowed to take up space at Yale where they can be seen,” González said.

González added that the goal was to recognize the Latinx life that already exists beyond the walls of La Casa while also creating new spaces on Yale’s campus for celebrating Latinx heritage. Regina Sung ’24, a photographer, visual artist and former photography editor for the News, emphasized this purpose in her array of photos on display at the event. 

Sung held an open call for Latinx individuals interested in presenting their expressions of their own Latinidad. Traditional photography can sometimes be “artificial and performative,” Sung said, so this method showcased the “individualistic expression of identities” of Latinx people on Yale’s campus.

“This is a documentation of our present moment, of what the Yale student body looks like and is composed of,” Sung noted.

The showcase also acknowledged the current natural disasters that have impacted communities in the Caribbean. Mariana Vargas ’23, announced that Despierta Boricua, the Puerto Rican Student Organization, would be collecting donations during the showcase for hurricane relief efforts. 

Over the course of the evening, the group raised around 400 dollars, adding to a total donation pool of

7,000 dollars. La Casa’s next event will collaborate with De Colores in celebration of intersectional queerness this Wednesday, Oct. 12, as Latinx Heritage Month nears its end. 

Latinx Heritage Month, federally recognized in the United States as National Hispanic Heritage Month, occurs annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.