By Emily Leedom
On Saturday, Oct. 22, the Organización Latinoamericana (OLA) celebrated their 25th anniversary with a night full of music, food, and dancing during their annual Latin Night of the Arts. Traditionally, Latin Night of the Arts is the time of year where OLA invites the greater Simmons community to share in their celebration of Latin culture.
The 2016 Latin Night of the Arts not only celebrated a wide variety of Latin cultures and recognized members of the organization, but also all of the accomplishments of Latinx students who have graced Simmons. This year’s event called specific attention to the history of Latin American organizations on the Simmons campus.
The keynote speaker, Maria Cervantes Gonzalez, a recent Simmons alumna and former president of OLA, offered her advice to the current generation of Latinx students at Simmons, encouraging them to do what makes them feel whole inside rather than giving into pressure, cultural or societal.
Dominican cuisine, a mariachi band, and traditional dance music played by the long-time house band Grupo Fantasia made this year’s Latin Night of the Arts truly a night of accomplishment.
“After many months planning, I’m so happy to have been able to see such beautiful brown people enjoying themselves and celebrating our culture,” said Isadora Jacquez, current Vice President of OLA and key planner of the event.
In 1991, the first organization for Latin American students was formed at Simmons College. The Latin American and Spanish Speaking Organization (LASSO) created a place where members could celebrate their cultures, meet other students with whom they shared an identity and have a space where they could be unapologetically Latina.
Twenty-five years later, the OLA is continuing the mission of their predecessor. OLA continues to foster a supportive environment where students who identify as Latin American can embrace and explore their expansive cultures and identities and build life-long relationships with fellow Latinx students.
The organization has also given rise to a community of activists and promotes cultural awareness on campus. Although the name of the organization has changed many times, it has always strived to create a community, a home away from home, for Latin American students at Simmons, where their identities are welcomed with open arms and they can take pride in the beauty of their heritage.
Although the next Latin Night of the Arts is a year away, OLA has a few other events planned for fall semester. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is the next upcoming event and will be held on Nov. 2.
OLA is, and forever will be, building bonds between Latinx students and providing a safe place for them to constantly embrace their culture.
OLA meets every Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. in the organization’s office, located in Evans Basement. If you have any questions or would like to be added to the mailing list, please feel free to contact the Organizacion Latinoamericana at email@example.com.