Hispanic Culture Organization hosts Salsa Night

Students practice Hispanic dances at the Hispanic Culture Organization’s second annual Salsa Night. HCO hosts the event in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is nationally observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Lively Latin beats seasoned the night air beneath the GUC bridge on UNA’s campus Oct. 11 during Salsa Night, the second event of its kind hosted by the Hispanic Culture Organization (HCO), a group whose presence on campus is fairly new.

The HCO hosted the event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, nationally observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 yearly to honor American ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Participants stopped by between 6 and 10 p.m. for music, dancing, mingling, snacking and free T-shirts. The HCO provided refreshments, including homemade tamales, chips and queso.

Senior Amanda Hernandez taught many of the dancing steps, which included but were not limited to salsa dancing. She also taught bachata, merengue and reggaeton styles, all of which required an ample amount of hip shaking and fast stepping.

“All the styles of Latin dance are a different language, and the Hispanic culture is something I love to immerse myself in,” said junior Cody Lyman, an HCO member.

He learned how to salsa by watching a YouTube video an hour before the event and was already keeping step with his partner Connie Rodriguez, HCO secretary.

While some students were familiar with the dancing, it was a learning experience for many.

Freshman foreign language major Coddy Macneilo stopped by when he saw the dancing and T-shirts.

“It’s fun, but it’s dangerous,” he said.

Salsa Night was the HCO’s first event this semester. The officers will meet within the month to decide on a meeting time, elect new officers and plan future events.

“We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what else to do,” Rodriguez said.

Last December, the HCO hosted a student-led march toward understanding in response to the Alabama immigration bill.

Rodriguez said the HCO plans to take a group of students to Birmingham this November to celebrate Day of the Dead as they did last year.

Hernandez is a co-founder of the year-old organization and said she would like to see more student participation. She said the HCO currently consists of about 150 members, 60 of whom are active members.

“We have a rich Hispanic population here in the Shoals area and at UNA,” said Scott Infanger, the group’s sponsor and assistant professor of Spanish.

Of UNA’s student body, 138 are Hispanic, said Molly Vaughn, coordinator of analytical services.

“We needed an organization to strengthen the ties between Hispanics and non-Hispanics,” Hernandez said. “We also want to create tolerances and expose the stereotypes that all Hispanics are either Mexican or illegal or can’t speak English, because that’s simply not the case.”

Hernandez said the group is open to any students with an interest in Hispanic culture.

“I’m from Tennessee, for crying out loud,” she said. “We just want to see students come together.”