Tamales, Music & More: Hispanic Heritage Month Starts with “Viva America”

College Hispanic American Students honored the start of Hispanic Heritage Month Wednesday night with “Viva America,” an event that felt like a big family fiesta.

Cinthia Resendiz, the President of College Hispanic American Students, says the student organization has put together the annual Viva America event for at least eight years.

“Viva America is our Hispanic Heritage Month kick-off event,” Resendiz said. “We have food from different countries and we have performers come and entertain us, just to celebrate the independence days from different countries.”

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the rich culture and history of Hispanic and Latinx Americans every year, from September 15 to October 15. As an SMU student with Hispanic roots, I was eager to see what CHAS would put together to commemorate the occasion — and I was not disappointed.

Members of College Hispanic American Students share cuisine from various Latin American countries at Viva America on Wed., Sept. 18, 2019. Photo credit: Cristin Espinosa

First, the food was everything. There was an array of Latin cuisine from various countries to represent the different cultures that make up the Hispanic world.

“We have arepas from Colombia,” Resendiz said. “We have tamales, pupusas, which are from El Salvador. We also have churros. So, we try to mix it up every single year to try to get every single country.”

Spectators enjoyed a live performance of folklórico dancers. The baile folklórico is a traditional form of dance from Mexico, involving a lot of twirling to show off the women’s vibrant, colorful skirts — which are a crucial part of the choreography. The dance always has upbeat music that often gets audiences clapping along.

Traditional Mexican folklórico dancers perform at Viva America on Wed., Sept. 18, 2019. Photo credit: Cristin Espinosa

There was an undeniable atmosphere of family and togetherness throughout the evening. Resendiz, now a junior, has been involved in College Hispanic American Students since her freshman year. She says CHAS makes her feel like she’s a part of something larger than herself.

“I just felt so at home,” Resendiz said about joining CHAS as a freshman. “Even though I’m from Dallas and my family is here, it was nice to have that family on campus, and so, I’m just really passionate about this.”

If you missed this year’s Viva America, no worries. CHAS will host plenty of get-togethers in the future. Check out the organization’s page on Connect.SMU to stay up-to-date on their latest activities.