For Cecilia Garcia, this month was supposed to be spent performing at Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations with Mariachi Paredes de la Universidad de Texas, UT’s Mariachi ensemble. Due to COVID-19, this year’s performances were cancelled.
“Not being able to (perform) is weird,” government sophomore Garcia said. “I've never missed a year of performing, ever, since my freshman year of high school.”
Latinx and Hispanic students and organizations at UT have had to adjust their traditional celebrations during the month. Garcia said last year the Mariachi ensemble hosted in-person gigs, but they pre-recorded performance videos to post to Facebook this year.
Garcia said each member of the Mariachi ensemble recorded their individual parts which were then edited together in a final performance video.
“I live in an apartment so it's hard to record that loud and not bother my roommates (or) neighbors,” Garcia said. “It's a pretty hard process but, you know, what else can we do?”
Neuroscience junior Mayeli Luna is vice president of RGV Familia, an initiative under UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement that seeks to provide a community for Latinx students from the Rio Grande Valley. Created in June, this is the organization's first year celebrating Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month.
“In Hispanic culture, familia es todo, so we want to have that ‘home away from home’ feeling within our initiative,” Luna said.
Rather than throwing a party like Luna would have wanted to, the organization started Valley Culture Series, a social media campaign highlighting Hispanic individuals in the UT community.
Students, faculty and alumni could answer questions and write out their cultural experiences living in the Valley in a Google form, which the organization compiled into a feature post on Twitter and Instagram.
“We ask them things, like ‘What message do you want to send to your RGV community (during) this month?’ or ‘How (has) being Hispanic helped you grow as a person?’” Garcia said. “Learning more about students here at UT can unify us more in our culture and experiences.”
Texas Folklorico Dance Company is a student organization for members to explore Mexican culture through dance. Karla Cuellar-Ramirez, a civil engineering and government junior, said they only performed at one Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month celebration this year, which was hosted by the SHPE Austin Professional Chapter over Zoom.
Aside from dancing, Cuellar-Ramirez and one other performer had to worry about WiFi, camera angles and staying 6 feet apart on the Physics, Math, and Astronomy building patio.
“We couldn't really see the laptop, and I was very nervous of the music going out and then we're just dancing without any sound,” Cuellar-Ramirez said. “The (laptop) camera is so small, (and) it's hard to keep focus (because) when I dance, I spot a certain place, but it wasn't the same spot in the camera.”
Cuellar-Ramirez said it was hard to perform without the energy and applause from an in-person crowd.
“The energy the crowd puts out is very important to me because I feed off of it,” Cuellar-Ramirez said. “After the performance, we were checking the comments and people were (saying) ‘good job’ and stuff, but we didn't get to see that while we were performing.”
Despite not being able to take part in in-person events, Luna said she still celebrated Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month on her own by cooking traditional Mexican meals like mole, flautas and chiles rellenos.
“I’m really proud of my Hispanic traditions,” Luna said. “I like for people to be celebrated, and it's disappointing I wasn't able to be around other people in my culture (because) music and traditions bring people together.”