While in my “Black Aesthetic” course the other day, Professor Reilly mentioned something that really stuck with me. We were talking about the importance of establishing our own spaces within certain institutions, in order to challenge them and make these spaces our own. He brought up the idea of creative liberation, and described how it could aid in the liberation of the whole person, and in the spaces they inhabit – whether it be academic or professional. While he spoke and shared his immense knowledge with us , all I could think to myself was “Facts.” This is because it was through this creative liberation that I not only emerged as the woman I am today, but truly how I have survived college life.
Transitioning from high school to college was a bit of a culture shock for me, especially coming from Sacred Heart of Jesus, a predominantly Latina school in Lincoln Heights, to LMU. Walking onto campus for the first time my frehsman year was like stepping into a completely new world – one that I didn’t necessarily know if I belonged in or would be accepted by. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere on campus where I could be unapologetically myself and develop as both a woman and as a leader.
All this changed, however, when I attended my first ever Clubfest, and met the group that would forever change my life: Ballet Folklórico de LMU. Finding this group on campus was literally what I needed to have survived my first year of college, and what has pushed me to be a better version of myself every year since. It has given me the outlet through which I am not only able to connect with my culture and celebrate it, but most importantly, it allows me to make LMU my own.
For those of you that don’t know, Folklórico Méxicano is the practice of traditional Mexican Folk-dance. The dance styling celebrates the unique style, history, and culture of each individual state in Mexico, while simultaneously uniting the country as a whole through its performance.
Being able to practice it myself means so much more than just dancing for fun; it represents the connection I have with my roots and my culture and showcases the power I possess as a mujer (woman) and Folklórista. Additionally, it enables me to help tell the story of the beautiful country Folklórico Mexicano aims to represent. For me, being able to be part of the group that practices this tradition on a college campus sends that much more of a powerful message.
Every time I step onto the stage for a performance with my fellow dancers, I am reminded of why I dance. I dance to reclaim the spaces of higher education that have historically marginalized my cultura. I dance because it empowers me as a mujer and as a Folklórista. I dance because it connects me to my proudly Mexicana roots. I dance because it reminds our LMU community that we, the Latino community, exist on the bluff, that we too are Leones, and that our gritos (voices) will be heard.
This group means so much to me and has developed me into the soon to be Lion alumna I am today. It has pushed me to develop my confidence as a leader and has allowed me to make my goals a reality –especially in being able to, along with my team, create and establish the group’s now annual Spring Showcase, Sueño de Mexico. In addition, every single member who I have been lucky enough to encounter during my time with the group, both current and graduated, have become some of my greatest friends and inspirations, and I only have Folklórico and LMU to thank for bringing us together.
Through Ballet Folklórico de LMU, which has since been renamed Grupo Folklórico de LMU, I was able to find not only my voice on LMU’s campus, but my familia. I hope for years beyond my graduation in spring it continues to do the same for others.