Surrounded by books and historical artifacts in the “Harry Potter” classroom on Lone Mountain, Margarita Muñoz ties her long, bright green skirt around her waist and checks the sound of her heels on the hardwood floor. She spins around with grace, creating beautiful patterns of cloth and color. A Spanish singing male baritone voice fills the room from a lone, dying speaker, backed by trumpets and guitars. Muñoz is a USF senior majoring in Latin American studies and President of Baile Folklórico de San Pancho, a student club devoted to traditional Latin American dance. The club’s hour long, Thursday night dance rehearsals have become a part of her Latina identity.
For Muñoz, being Latina “means maintaining your culture through dance, music, traditions, language.” Baile Folklórico offers a space to create a community celebrating Latinx culture, a small corner of the diverse expressions of the Latinx identity on the USF campus.
The terms Latino or Latina are used to describe people with distinct backgrounds, skin color, family histories, and life events. The first official use of the term was in the 2000 United States Census in order to count people from all over Latin America, along with others who would identify as Hispanic or Spanish. The result is an eclectic mix of people around the country who share common experiences but also maintain cultural differences. The Latinx community is very diverse, on a national scale as well as locally at USF.
Muñoz’s second in command, Alicia Escobedo, agrees about the diversity of the Latinx identity. “I think it can mean different things to different people. To me, it means being a part of my culture… if that means hanging out with my family during the holidays, doing traditional Mexican things, I think that helps with my identification as Latina.” Escobedo rehearses with her skirt as well, this one a hot pink fabric. Her hair is pulled back to reveal a face without makeup. Like Muñoz, it shows plenty of enthusiasm for Baile Folklórico.
When I dance I like to put ganas into it. Because it’s something that I really like. It’s not just something that I just do, it’s something that I really feel.”
Dance and music have always been at the core of Escobedo’s Latina identity. A senior, she teaches the students at Baile Folklórico traditional dances from regional parts of Mexico. Before coming to USF to study Psychology, she was in a mariachi group for eight years.”If I hadn’t been in the group, and I hadn’t learned all I did about Mexican culture, I don’t know if I would have identified as Latino,” she confides.
Escobedo’s passion for Mexican dance is obvious. She’s the first one to the meeting, and when other members arrive, she’s excited to show them a YouTube video of a traditional Veracruz song. She convinces her fellow members to perform it with her and teaches them the choreography. “When I dance I like to put ganas into it,” she says passionately. “Because it’s something that I really like. It’s not just something that I just do, it’s something that I really feel.”