Festival promotes Hispanic culture

Ozomatli band members Ulises Bella and Justin Poree play at Van Meter Hall on Tuesday night.

Michael Squire

The Hispanic Heritage Festival made its debut Tuesday behind Van Meter Hall as part of the year’s first Cultural Enhancement Series event, hosting a variety of Hispanic organizations, music and expressions of culture.

Hosted by Hispanic Organization for Latin American Students, and Hispanic Organization for the Promotion of Education, the groups sought to promote cultural awareness about Hispanics on WKU’s campus and in the local community.

The Los Angeles based, urban-Latino band, Ozomatli, performed a free show for the attendees in Van Meter later that night.

Nashville sophomore Jonny Garcia, president of HOLAS, said it was the group’s first time holding an event like the Hispanic Heritage Festival.

“We’re really here to have fun and show other people that we’re very proud of our culture,” Garcia said. “We want to show it off.”

Simon Funge, committee chair for the Cultural Enhancement Series, helped to bring together a subcommittee consisting of student and faculty leaders from the Hispanic community both on and off campus to discuss how to create leverage for Ozomatli to come to campus.

The subcommittee suggested holding the Hispanic Heritage Festival before the performance in hopes to influence prospective Hispanic students to make WKU their college choice, spread awareness of the Hispanic presence on campus and to let people have some fun, relax and learn some culture, Funge said.

“WKU wants to grow the population of Hispanics,” Funge said. “The entire Hispanic population on campus only makes up about two percent of the student body.”

Tours were given to prospective Hispanic students as well as their families a half-hour before the festival. Spanish speaking tour guides from the modern language department were there to better provide for non-English speaking participants.

Deejays from D93/WKCT, who host Bowling Green’s only Spanish-language program, La Nuestra, played music at the festival.

Several information booths were at the event. HOLAS, HOPE, WKU’s Spanish club, and WKU’s Office of International Programs, as well as many other groups from outside of campus held booths and provided a variety of information for Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike.

HOLAS and HOPE also held fundraisers during the festival for their organizations by selling baked goods.

HOPE provides support to Bowling Green’s Hispanic community through scholarships to WKU and Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College.

According to the HOLAS Facebook page, the group strives to address social, political, academic, cultural and educational strengths and concerns of the Latin American community on campus.

“The Latin American culture with our community is growing here in Bowling Green as well as at Western,” Garcia said. “And we want to make our presence known and make a difference through events like this.”