Brandeis LatinX Student Organization (BLSO) hosted its second annual culture show called Incendio, on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 18, in a packed Levin Ballroom. This year’s theme was “Breaking Borders,” chosen in response to recent national and global occurrences which have drastically shaken up America’s political landscape and left many unsettled, alarmed and concerned. BLSO’s Incendio 2017 served as the group’s collective response to everything happening in today’s world.
“Last year’s election has impacted so many people and the political climate around immigration, healthcare, blunt racism and so much more has made this country unwelcoming to many. As a club, we support all our members regardless of their identities in this country and together, we choose to break the borders that try to halt us,” the event program stated. BLSO strives to break down tangible and intangible borders, intangible borders being identity, culture, language and knowledge, as BLSO Vice President Miranda Hurtado-Ramos ’19 put it.
While all of the performances succeeded in bringing together various cultures, the backdrop, designed by BLSO President Lopez-Landaverde, was visually stunning. A map of the United States, Central America and South America sat on top of the American flag on the left side of the giant backdrop. And paper butterflies, which represent the countless immigrants who came to America, traveled around the map as well as on other parts of the backdrop.
Most notably, an illustration of President Trump occupied the right side of the backdrop, holding a sign with an alien on it and the word “Illegal!” above the green figure. The silhouettes of protesters rested beneath President Trump, standing beside police officers. Trump and the officers were roped off with yellow caution tape. The protestors outside of the tape held signs that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “I Stand with DACA!” and “Made by Immigrants!”
Various Native deities and Catholic figures floated on a cloud at the top and center of the backdrop, two of which were the Virgin Mary and Santería. Three different graduates stood at the bottom and center of the backdrop, all with different skin tones, illustrating diversity within Latin America, the ability to achieve one’s goals and the ability to pave the way for those to come in the future.
Julavic Marquez ’18 performed an interactive spoken word segment. She immediately asked for the audience’s participation in her performance. She taught event attendees the chorus of her piece, which was “Ee oo Epiritú Santo e,” sung twice in a row numerous times throughout. The spoken word performance chronicles the life of a sex worker, and through it, the correlation between sex-tourism and economic income in the Dominican Republic. Both subjects are prominent in Caribbean countries.
Raw emotions filled the performance and could be easily sensed through Marquez’s heated tone and passionate gestures and body movements. During her performance, she weaved her way in between and around all twelve of the tables that audience members occupied.
“The economic support of this / country I have it between my legs.” “But you don’t know what it means / to bring $100 dollars home in one night.” “I have learned / To carry with me two things / Christ and a condom / Caribbean Protection.” These are a few examples of the words Marquez spoke with such power.
What made her performance memorable and meaningful was when Marquez asked that all audience members walk around Levin—just walk. She wanted event goers to feel the ground they were walking on and make eye contact with those they passed, tasks seemingly ordinary and simple, but tasks most people often fail to do without glancing at their phones or at the ground. These easy instructions made people seriously think about everyday life and those who constantly surround us, compared to the life and company of the sex worker she spoke out for.
Platinum Step Team delivered the most intense performance of the evening. Together, all eight members fiercely commanded the stage. “Step [is] a form of art in which they use their bodies to make powerful rhymes and sound, as a form of expression,” the event program explained. The troupe mesmerized and energized the entire ballroom with its synchronized routine. Each member’s stomping, clapping and tapping contributed to a unified movement and sound, and an overall seriously impressive performance. Each and every member of Platinum Step Team exuded vigor, strength and drive.
Like Marquez, Marcelo Brociner ’18 went down the spoken word path. He performed two songs off his debut album, “Price of Paradise,” but in a cappella. Both reflect on being stuck or lonely, but ignoring those negative voices in order to come out on top.
“It gets rough, but still we stand up, it’s difficult when they don’t want you to get your hands up.” “We gotta keep fightin’, and doing progressin’, cause you know this is just a whole new lesson.” “I’ve been straight stuck, but I gotta get it movin’, cause they’ve been trying to stop the dance, but we keep groovin.’” These are a few among many of Brociner’s sincere, clever and motivational lyrics.
Anastasia Christelles ’18 played “De Colores” and “Cancion Mixteca” on her flute, an instrument she’s been mastering for the past 10 years. Incendio 2017 marked Christelles’ first solo gig, and her performance was very soothing and upbeat.
LatinXtreme brought the heat with its dances to “Magalehna” by Sergio Mendes, “Sobredosis” by Romeo ft. Ozuna and “Mi Gente” by J-Balvin. The dance group performed all three numbers with intensity, passion, attitude and energy.
Incendio also featured Samantha Bareno-Schulman ’21 singing an original song called “Falling,” which touched upon loss and dreams, among several other feelings, and it even got the crowd clapping along during the choruses. Another singing performance, Hurtado-Ramos sang “Breathe” from a musical called “In the Heights.” Her powerful voice captured the attention of everyone in the room.
With flags hanging from the balcony and stage, vibrant tables and table decorations, a fun photo booth area, colorful balloons and tassels, live performances and delicious foods with roots in the numerous cultures LatinX represents, Incendio: Breaking Borders succeeded in celebrating and bringing together several cultures from around the world.