By Catherine Brewer ’20
It was 6:45 p.m. in McPhail’s Pub this Thursday night, and visiters were greeted by a series of blown-up candid photographs propped up on tripod stands. A closer look reveals that these faces are those of Providence College students and that each carries an important message. There were several students preparing for the event to the beat of the Latino music that burst through the speakers, and there was a woman leading their efforts: Kayla Luciano ’18.
Luciano is the president of the Organization of Latin American Students, commonly known as OLAS. The exhibition on display, titled “The Latinx Identity,” and the entire Latinx Expo were put on by the organization. “It’s in honor of culminating the end of Hispanic Heritage month,” Luciano explained.
For the exhibit, members of OLAS collaborated with the Photography Club to meld their personal experiences into pieces of art. Students were able to choose an image that represents an important aspect of their identity, and after a headshot was taken, the chosen image was pulled through the portrait using a double-exposure effect. They also picked a quote to accompany the piece.
The event is put on annually by OLAS; however, it has a different theme every year. Luciano explains that she has been a member of the organization since her freshman year, adding that this year’s artistic event was unique. A discussion of the pieces was to be followed with performances by Marleny Luna, an actress and Rhode Island College alumna, and two of her guests. Traditional Latin dishes would also be served.
On leaving her legacy behind, Luciano stated, “I hope that the members of OLAS continue to express their Latin identity, share it with others on campus, and are proud to be Latino. I want them to let that be known and show it through events like this.” She added that she was very excited about how the photos came out and looked foward to the poetry readings.
As the clock hit 7 p.m., the PC community came together as students began to fill every seat in the pub. The upbeat environment was prominent as all were smiling and laughing, yet it was evident that all were appreciative of the deeper meaning that the works conveyed. Maria Santos ’20, a staff member at McPhail’s and a guest at the event, emerged with a microphone and began singing along to the music. Santos came to PC from Puerto Rico. Looking back on the event, she raved, “The event was 10 out of 10! The pictures were great, the poetry was awesome, the food was amazing, and the Latino music took me back home for a moment! I really enjoyed being at the expo for a couple of hours!”
The room grew quiet as Luciano began to speak over the microphone, captivating the entire room. After introducing the OLAS executive board, Luciano described the works as a “glimpse of our visions, experiences, hopes and dreams.” Next, the featured students began to describe their own pieces to the audience. Luciano kicked it off by addressing her own. The photograph depicts Luciano gazing upward as butterflies float across her face. She explained that at first, she chose the butterflies because of their association with DACA. However, they have a deeper meaning to her now, as deportations are growing in number.
Marvin Taveras ’19, vice president of OLAS, also shared his work. He chose an image from a recent trip to Nicaragua through the global studies program at PC. Taveras explained that while on a walk through the community he was visiting, he came across one family’s hut that was built “just enough,” surrounded by overgrown grasses and a barbed wire fence. While many students can become caught up in the chaos of college, Taveras encourages everyone to stay true to their roots.
“I think that Latin Expo was a huge success from the art pieces, to the food, to the guest poets, and the number of people that came out to support. I believe everything came together beautifully,” Taveras explained. “I believe Latin Expo is important because it’s a way for students to embrace and celebrate their Latin heritage and share it with the PC community. However, I wish we could’ve had more participants in the art pieces, since it is open to everyone, whether or not they are a part of OLAS. Personally, this was the third Latin Expo that I’ve been on the Executive Board for, and seeing the different topics we have done, this was by far my favorite