In the Americas, Carnaval has also been influenced by African and indigenous traditions. Today, the most popular Carnavales take place in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia. Carnaval seemed like the perfect name for the Association of Latin American Students' annual cultural production in order to highlight the rich traditions of Latin America while also contributing to the traditional feeling of social unity. The show is an invitation for the campus to partake in the music, dance, and theater of Latin American culture. Carnaval is in now its seventeenth year and has grown from a small, outdoor performance in Brookings Quadrangle to one of the largest student-run cultural productions with over 150 participants of different backgrounds.
So, you might ask, why do we Carnaval?
Carnaval is perhaps one of the most life-giving shows at this school. To put it bluntly and somewhat honestly, it's one of the few major Latinx and Latin American events that people know about and will go to. WashU also likes to highlight Carnaval in order to show it's diversity and claim Latino/a/xs as a bigger population on campus. It's sad to acknowledge this, but it's true. Writing this as the Carnaval chairs, it sucks knowing that WashU sometimes sees us as a checkbox waiting to be filled. But that shouldn't stop us at all.
The Latino/a/x community here may be small, but it's powerful, and we truly think that Carnaval is one of the central events that put us on people's radars. A lot of people don't know or care about the issues pertaining to us, but Carnaval, along with Symposium and Film Festival, put our issues to the forefront. It's time that we're heard for being more than just food and dance; I recognize this as ironic, since a major point of Carnaval is the number of dances we have. But sometimes we have to feed into the stereotype in order to get our message across. It is important for our narratives to be heard and our experiences to be validated. After all, WashU claims to know us by name and story, right?
Carnaval is one of the few major opportunities to show non-Latin Americans what it means to be Latinx. With stories in the past ranging from mixed marriages to development of identity to living the hyphen, Carnaval brings our issues to the forefront of more than 1000 people--it's a chance to inform them, change their minds about an issue, and feel powerful. Nowhere has this most been seen than Carnaval 2015, where our Lyrical Latin Fusion performance brought tears to people's eyes as it called upon the frightful events of the 43 Ayotzinapa students (and therefore, calling on many other forms of governmental oppression throughout Latin America).
So, why do we Carnaval? We Carnaval because it's one of the only opportunities Latinxs have a voice. Sure, a lot of our dancers are not Latinx, but that's okay. Much of Latinx culture is about being a family and spreading our stories and customs to others, so why shouldn't we include all? :)
We Carnaval to spread our culture.
We Carnaval to break the norm.
We Carnaval to make our stories heard.
We Carnaval to Carnaval.
"We, as Latinos, have to fight for our recognition in a place where there are so few of us"
- Carnaval skit, 2015