Cause for celebration!
Grant provides funding for Brazilian, Latin American studies
Dancing, singing and people moving to the rhythmic martial art of capoeira filling the UA mall as faculty members engage in the hypnotic rhythm of samba, finding themselves moving their hips right alongside the students and community members under the guidance of instructor Bardo Padilla.
This was the scene when the Center for Latin American Studies hosted a carnival celebration on the UA mall Feb. 24, with a variety of activities for students to engage in to learn more about the Brazilian culture and language.
The event began with Marcela Vásquez, the director of the Center for Latin American Studies, greeting the audience and introducing new LAS assistant professor Antonio Bacelar da Silva, who spearhead for the new initiative for Brazil studies program.
"This is an attempt to build bridges between the departments that have interest in Brazilian culture and language and with the students and faculty in these departments but above all we want to engage with the community with events like the one we have today," Silva said.
The Center for Latin American studies got a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as contributions from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Humanities, and this new initiative for Brazil studies is a partnership between the Spanish and Portuguese departments.
Capoeira was one of the first events showcased, with live demonstrations in the crowd by Axé Capoeira Tucson, a capoeira and dance studio in the community. Men and women rhythmically moving around on the mall while others sang and clapped to the motion.
Following that was Bardo Padilla who lead the crowd in demonstrations of samba dancing. Everyone was encouraged to stand up and move their hips and feel the motion in their bodies as the samba music played. Padilla lead students like Kiana Hamilton a French Senior who found the event while walking past it on the mall.
"I was just walking by and I saw it happening and I walked over and joined in on dancing, I have a heart for dancing and I love Latin music and I already had taken a Latin American class but if there was a dance class in Latin American studies I would've taken it," Hamilton said.
Following the samba dancing there was live music and a soccer demonstration, where students and community members had the opportunity to kick a soccer ball into a goal to win a Brazilian flag or candy from the country.
Edgar Monreal, a father and research specialist at the Center for Latin American Studies brought his children to enjoy the event and festivities. His son was proudly walking around with three Brazilian flags in hand.
"My children absolutely enjoyed the event because for us in Latin American the music, the dance, the food, the culture is so important for the children to enjoy and saturate themselves in the culture." Monreal said.
Psychology sophomore Aileen Cruz attended the event on referral from her Portuguese 305 class. She wants to study abroad, and can now have more opportunities to do so with LAS receiving this grant.
"I don't know anything about the Brazilian culture, I really like learning about different cultures so this event caught my attention, just like the dancing and the capoeira and I want to able to be as fluent as some of the people who speak Portuguese here." Cruz said.
Vásquez also hopes to involve more students in study abroad by having student internships in the city of Fortaleza, capital of the Brazilian state of Ceará.
"I'm excited for this event and I think this will be the first of many and not just Brazil but more of Latin America, we need to promote the beauty, the culture, the deep history of Latin American countries through academia and students, this wont be the last event," Vásquez said.
The Spanish and Portuguese departments are working in collaboration to develop a new online course for Spanish speakers interested in learning Portuguese. On top of developing a Brazilian business component, the departments are working on multiple new projects to enrich UA students with more Latin American culture.
"In the end we hope to establish a program that is not only engaging the university but also the community, there is a large Brazilian community in Tucson that is very disconnected from the university so we want to bring them in as well," Vásquez said.
These engagement opportunities include creating a film series on Brazil which will show at The Loft Cinema during the fall semester. Vásquez hope to bring producers and other speakers who worked on the films that'll be shown at the loft.
She is also trying to create a Brazil studies network by finding faculty members across the UA who have a interest in Brazil or are Brazilian themselves, and connecting them all to better enrich the experience students have by doing outreach in every department.
Vásquez on how this grant is a opportunity for the Latin American Studies to broaden the student and community its engagement and understanding of the culture by creating classes and hosting events and involving everyone.
"I want to tell undergraduate students that these events and this initiative is for them, for undergraduate education and the best way to learn is to see the world and we're trying to show them a country that is a large part of Latin America," Vásquez said.
For more information you can visit the center for Latin American Studies at the Harvill Building in Room 343, on 1103 E. Second St. or visiting the website las.arizona.edu
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