‘Culture is everywhere’: Celebrating Afro-Latinx heritage

Isabelle Munoz, a special guest at the event, shared some of her cultural heritage and traditions with Baylor students. Abby Roper | Photographer

By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer

The Beckham Room of the Bill Daniel Student Center was filled with traditional Panamanian stories, clothing, cuisine, music and dancing Wednesday night as the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in STEM (SACNAS) celebrated Afro-Latinx culture and heritage.

San Antonio graduate student Malcolm Macleod is the president of SACNAS and planned the event. In the process, he corresponded with Afro-Caribbean cuisine restaurant owner Isabel Munoz, who was a featured guest.

“[It’s a] really fun, interactive way of educating people about the diversity of Latinx cultures and of African heritage,” Macleod said. “There’s a lot more to that than we thought.”

Munoz shared a traditional Panamanian dress as well as storytelling and dancing. She told the story of African slaves who were brought to Panama to build the canal while dancing to a traditional Panamanian drum. Afterward, several attendees joined Munoz in dancing and singing before eating her homecooked Afro-Caribbean food.

According to Munoz, slaves created traditional dresses by sewing together different patterns that were left over from their owners, and they created makeshift crowns to accompany them.

“We have all of this beautiful mixture, so much influence from people who were once enslaved, from Indigenous people,” Macleod said.

Dr. Karine Gil, faculty adviser for SACNAS, said she was moved by Munoz’s story.

“The beautiful story is that everyone is a queen,” Gil said. “It doesn’t matter where you are from. You are a queen, and it’s beautiful to sing about.”

Keller sophomore Julianna Canas is the social media chair for SACNAS. Canas said it was a privilege and an honor to be able to host Munoz and learn from her.

“She’s just on fire for wanting to share her culture,” Canas said. “Her representing a bunch of Afro-Latino Americans is incredible.”

Houston junior Stephanie Mata is the Latinx Coalition intern for the Baylor department of multicultural affairs. She said she attended the event in support of SACNAS as well as for the opportunity to expose herself to different traditions, foods and languages.

“It’s important because culture is everywhere,” Mata said. “There is nothing more beautiful than getting to know something that maybe you’re not accustomed to, and I think it opens your eyes so that there’s more life outside of just here.”

Macleod, Canas and Mata said the Afro-Latinx community is an underrepresented one at Baylor. According to Macleod, there has not been an event celebrating Afro-Latinx culture at Baylor, so the celebration was an important nod to those who may have felt unseen on campus.

“I think that’s probably a missing piece we have at Baylor,” Mata said. “And I think something like this that SACNAS is having for their Afro-Latino students puts a puzzle piece into that.”

Macleod said the Afro-Latinx Culture Heritage Celebration was an event intended to make individuals who identify as Afro-Latinx feel seen and valued, but it was open to everyone. There were students of various ethnicities and backgrounds, but all came to learn about and celebrate Afro-Latinx culture.

“How will you feel welcome in this institution if there’s nothing that celebrates you and they celebrate others?” Macleod said.