Across the MSC Bethancourt Ballroom, a group of students clothed in bright orange and blue áo dàis pose for a picture, and as the throng of people continues to mill about, the first trills of a mariachi band fill the room with rich, vibrant sound.
In an effort to shed light on the cultures that comprise the A&M student body, the Department of Multicultural Services partnered with the Asian Presidents Council, the Black Students Alliance Council and the Hispanic Presidents Council to host the 13th Annual Fusion Fiesta on Thursday, Nov. 14. The event’s “Pass the Plate: We’re Better Together” theme intended to expose students to diverse traditions, customs and art forms that work together to make the campus unique.
Many different groups were represented at the Fiesta, such as the International Student Association, the Study Abroad Office, the Brazilian Student Organization and the Aggie Black Male Connection. ABMC chief administrative officer and engineering sophomore Devon Ramlal said he and his fellow officers used this Fiesta to spread awareness about the Black organizations and resources on campus.
“It’s kind of a safe space for African American males to get together and talk about either social issues, or just their feelings about being in a PWI (Predominantly White Institution),” Ramlal said. “There are African-Americans that don't even know about the different multicultural things that are there to help them, and so if they can get plugged into at least one of those facets, then they’ll see it as more like home and they’ll have people they can relate to and talk to about things that they might not feel comfortable talking to other people about.”
Several groups took a culturally educational approach, creating tri-fold boards and tangible displays with information about certain countries, aspects of cultures or comparisons between different nations. Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Committee member and engineering freshman Nathan Purwosumarto showed visitors a scale model of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, to introduce students to some interesting facts about Cambodia.
“It’s important to recognize that learning about other countries contribute to the diversity here on campus,” Purwosumarto said. “Why we chose to do Cambodia was that because we’re the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, we wanted to include all Asian cultures, not just the ones that people really know about, like China or Japan.”
Students who attended the Fiesta played games at different stations, collected stamps for free cultural foods, like won-tons and Mexican Conchas, and participated in Minute-to-Win-It games for a chance to win prizes. Ballet Folklorico Celestial President and senior industrial distribution major Oscar Dominguez offered visitors a chance to learn traditional Mexican dance steps at his booth.
“I joined after I saw the booth at open house, and I was really interested in really reconnecting with my culture, being that I was pretty far away from home and I’ve loved it ever since,” Domiguez said. “We do love these events because we get to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different places, and we get to share what our heritage is, that cheerfulness, that Mexican party feeling and we’re just so happy to do that around here.”
Different cultural groups performed throughout the night, with acts ranging from music by the Aggieland Mariachi to the colorful dance of Vietnamese Student Association, to even a few a capella songs.
“I think it’s super important to get that exposure, to put ourselves out there for students to see that there is this little part of traditional culture here on campus that you can engage with,” Dominguez said. “That way you can connect a little bit more with your own heritage, or even experience a different culture if you’re not strictly Latin or Mexican.”