Festivities raise racial awareness

    Performances of Ballet Folklorico and Danza Azteca highlighted the second annual Raza Celebration held May 23 in the Price Center as part of Raza Awareness Week.

    Sam Scoufos
    Guardian

    Sponsored by Thurgood Marshall College’s Dean of Student Affairs Office, the event was designed to bring attention to the culture and heritage of native peoples of South America.

    “”[The point of the Raza Celebration] is to educate people about the natives from South America: their culture, their tradition, their history,”” said Ashanti Houston-Hands, dean of student affairs at Marshall college. “”We think it’s important to take time out to do that, to recognize their contributions.””

    The celebration started with a dance performance by Hilltop High School Ballet Folklorico. The high school group, which currently has about 200 members, performed while dressed in traditional vibrant attire.

    Sam Scoufos
    Guardian

    Described by organizers as “”a celebration of life in movement, music and color,”” Ballet Folklorico includes Mayan and Aztec rituals, as well as depictions of important events from Mexican history. The dances performed Thursday represented the traditional dances of four different Mexican states, according to Ballet Folklorico adviser Hortenisa Bryan.

    UCSD’s Danza Azteca, a group dedicated to learning more about Aztec culture, made a spiritual contribution to the celebration. Formed earlier this year with three founding members, the group has grown to nearly 20 members.

    Danza Azteca is named after a set of prayers acknowledging ancestors, the earth and the four elements, and includes traditional dress and pounding drums. The ritual also features the burning of copal, an incense derived from tree sap that takes thousands of years to harden. It is burned in memory of the tree’s long life.

    “”It was excellent,”” said Marshall student Kuochao Tseng about Danza Azteca. “”Especially the drums and beads were so cool.””

    In addition, organizers distributed pamphlets describing the purpose of the celebration and explaining the meanings behind the performances.

    “”It’s probably the most valuable way to reach out to students,”” said Victoria Kerba Miller, coordinator of student affairs for Marshall college. “”Everybody is so busy that we may not have time to look through books and read. Even if students don’t stop and watch, they’re picking up a brochure and getting a glimpse of what we’re showing.””

    Raza is a Spanish word meaning “”the race,”” but according to the pamphlet, its current connotation is “”our people.”” The word refers to “”the descendants of Native peoples of South America,”” who some feel are overlooked at UCSD.

    “”I think that in a place where many times our culture, our history and our presence are not recognized, we have to create those places,”” said Danza Azteca member Rafael Navar. “”It’s unfortunate we have to create a Raza Awareness Week, because when you create a Raza Awareness Week you are basically saying that you’re not recognized any other time of the year.””

    Susan Ung, a Marshall sophomore and intern at the Marshall Student Affairs Office, agreed.

    “”The celebration is important because it makes everyone aware of the different cultures that are present,”” Ung said. “”Some people didn’t know about the cultures that were present today.””

    The Raza Celebration constituted the third and final part of Marshall college’s “”edutainment”” series.

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