The American University League of United Latin American Citizens, AU Latinos en Accion, Puerto Rican Student Organization and Caribbean Circle hosted a multicultural Latin American and Caribbean cuisine tour on Nov. 16 to unify students at AU and promote the importance of community. The afternoon was enriched with laughs and music from all different regions.
The buffet-style food tour included dishes from the Caribbean like tostones, fried plantain, beef and vegetable empanadas and Latin dishes like pupusas, croquetas, churros with chocolate and a traditional ensalada.
“The reason why we decided to do a food tour is because the most recognized food is Mexican food but there’s other foods out there that are also delicious and deserve attention,” Allison Alayza, AU LULAC’s director of development said.
Alayza, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, planned the food tour with AU LULAC, aiming to showcase various types of food. She hopes it will encourage others to try and support local businesses in the DMV area.
For many of the organizations, the goal of the event was not only to indulge in diverse dishes but to hold a safe space for students of color in a predominantly white institution (PWI). Alayza spoke about the challenges of many Latino students being away from their homes and the longing for connection at college.
“We’re away from our families and it’s important for our culture to not get lost in an institution whose population in diversity isn’t equal across all boards,” Alayza said.
Alan Martínez, the outreach coordinator for PRSO, said he hopes that people come away from the event with a stronger connection to the culture.
“These kinds of events are just an opportunity to form a community,” Martínez said. “Especially between Latin American people or Hispanic people — it’s just a way for some of us to feel back home, just for a bit.”
Kaccia Flynn, a junior in CAS and co-president for the Caribbean Circle, echoed similar sentiments.
“The overall goal for Caribbean Circle is to create a safe space for Caribbean students on campus and promote our culture and raise awareness of our cultural diversity,” Flynn said. “Sometimes at a PWI, you can forget there's other people coming from similar backgrounds as you and I feel like we just want to foster that community, and this event allows us to continue doing that.”
As co-presidents, Flynn and Micayla Billouin, a junior in the School of International Service, prioritize raising awareness about the issues that students of color face, such as isolation within classrooms and dorms. By hosting events like these, Billouin and Flynn enable students to embrace communities that have overlapping cultures and traditions.
Naomi Tewodros, a sophomore in CAS, emphasized the importance of supporting other communities and exploring different cultures as well, explaining that doing so can increase visibility on campus.
“It’s important to go and learn and find ways to immerse different communities,” Tewodros said, “and I want to participate in that life on campus.”
The event allowed attendees to immerse themselves in multiple cultures through each food sample. While each dish was well-received in its own regard, certain foods were evident crowd favorites.
“I love churros,” Tewodros said at the event. “That’s what I’m really really really excited about. I’ll eat churros any day.”
Though dishes like churros were so popular, plenty of other foods stole the spotlight. Sofia Rodriguez, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, said she was looking forward to trying croquetas, a side dish made in countries such as Cuba and Spain, as well as in Puerto Rico.
“I like to try different things,” Rodriguez said.
Overall, the event was a place of both bonding and community. Cristian Benavidez, the secretary of AU LULAC, emphasized the importance of bringing people together through events like the food tour, and when asked about having more community events in the future, posed the question of “why not?”
“I think the question is ‘why not?’” Benavidez said. “Why not bring together community?”