Celeste Diaz, dancing at the Latino Student Alliance banquet earlier this semester, performed a traditional Paraguayan dance with her daughter at Noche Bohemia, an annual celebration of Hispanic culture at Eastern Mennonite University. The event, hosted by EMU's Language and Literature Department, brings students, faculty, staff, community members and area high school students to share in the festivities. (Courtesy photo; composite image by Macson McGuigan)

Spanish-language learners and native speakers join for annual Noche Bohemia festivities

From recounting the recipe for salsa verde to singing “La Bamba” — and praise songs — to acting out “Romance de la luna, luna,” it was a night of fun, food and celebration of Hispanic culture at Eastern Mennonite University.

The annual tradition “Noche Bohemia” filled Martin Chapel on Thursday, Nov. 16, with 40 local high school students and more than twice that many others for the talent show, followed by authentic Salvadoran pupusas and fruit drinks provided by Pupuseria y Tienda Latina El Milagro.

Zury Lemus, a Spanish conversation partner, presents about her country, Honduras, during Noche Bohemia. (Photo by Anna Louise Cecil)

The various acts ranged from silly to serious. In two poster presentations, Jonathan Nielsen spoke about Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentinian mothers advocating for human rights, and Marcy Smucker about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); her poster was titled “Estados Unidos necesita a los ‘dreamers.’”

The Spanish conversation assistants contributed, as well. Zury Lemus showed a video and spoke about Honduras, and in the final act, Celeste Diaz received resounding applause after her traditional Paraguayan dance with her three-year-old daughter.

First-year pre-med/biology and Spanish major Kayley Scottlind participated with her Spanish class in a comical interpretation of the poem “Romance de la luna, luna, luna” by Federico Garcia Lorca. Seeing the variety of cultures reflected in the event was “amazing,” she said.

At her high school, Scottlind said, Spanish was a class students took early, to get out of the way. At EMU, though, “Spanish is a program that’s celebrated. You actually get to speak with conversation partners twice a week, which has been wonderful for my development.”

One of her classmates was junior Hannah Gross. She said that Spanish students at EMU are expected to engage with the language a lot more than they were at her high school. That, she said, “is a very good thing. I’ve learned a lot more in the two semesters I’ve taken Spanish here than I did in four years in high school.”

She’s even caught herself doing something new: “Never before did I sometimes think in Spanish, and that’s sometimes happening now.”

Destiny Ritchie was another first-year participant; 10 of the high school students in the audience were from her alma mater, Broadway (Virginia) High School. She and her classmates sang “Solo le pido a Dios” and “Abre mis ojos,” and read the credo hispano. Studying Spanish at EMU, she said, has taken a variety of forms including dancing, singing and conversing — in class.

“There are a lot of new things every day,” she said.

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