Sunday, April 2, the College of William and Mary’s Latin American Student Union hosted its LASU Spring Event: a showcase titled “El Chisme Caliente” (“The Hot Gossip”), followed by a banquet named “Con Amor” (“With Love”). The showcase, taking place in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium, presented several student performances ranging from skits to spoken word poetry, and the banquet, located in Sadler’s Tidewater room, presented a range of traditional Latin American dishes accompanied by a slideshow presentation. Both halves of the event were meant to come together to create a unified festive celebration of Latin American culture.
“The purpose of the LASU spring event is to celebrate the diverse and rich Latinx culture, featuring both a showcase and a banquet,” former LASU Vice President Michelle Lopez ’23 said.
Lopez, the primary organizer of the event, opened the showcase speaking in both English and Spanish, as did all of the other presenters. She took to the stage to express LASU’s gratitude for those who helped bring the event to life and explain the rationale behind the themes chosen for the event.
“The theme was chosen to create an entertaining atmosphere where attendees can witness the chisme [gossip] that has been happening in LASU,” Lopez said. “And the banquet theme, ‘Con Amor,’ was inspired by the theme of love. The theme is based on creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the attendees, emphasizing the importance of love and kindness toward one another and, at the end of the day, what’s better than eating a meal and creating meals with those you love?”
Next to enter the stage were the lively and comedic emcees for the night: Mike Martinez ’26 and Tomas Torterola ’26. The pair came out between each act to lighten the mood and entertain with their witty banter, natural chemistry and audience interaction. During their opening remarks, Martinez highlighted a unique aspect of their annual showcase: each and every act in “El Chisme Caliente” exclusively featured LASU members, a deviation from the organization’s tradition of hosting showcases only consisting of guest performances by other student organizations.
“This is actually the very first time in a long time that LASU has been able to host a showcase all independently,” Martinez said. “We’ve got our own people out here performing, but these people have been practicing for months — Michelle’s been behind the scenes since August. So, we’re just super excited that we have a crowd this size coming out to watch us tonight.”
Martinez and Torterola then introduced the electric first act of the night, “A Celebration of Latin Style.”
Small groups of LASU members paraded onto the stage in traditional outfits from the different and distinctive Latin American countries they represented, with some also performing short dances native to their designated region. After each group enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, everyone re-entered the stage carrying the flag of the country they represented, pausing at the center of the stage to proudly scream out the name of their country. Shouts of “Bolivia!” and “El Salvador!” echoed across the auditorium to thunderous applause and cheering. As attendees rejoiced, the smiling performers walked through the crowd, waving and high-fiving spectators sitting in aisle seats before exiting through the back of the auditorium.
This enthusiasm and energy from the audience remained impressively high throughout the entirety of the forty-five-minute event, which performer Aamir Mohammed ’23 credited as one of the main reasons he was able to get through his nerves and share two of his poems, “On Footprints of Self-Love” and “Abuela’s Song,” as the third act of the show.
“The audience was so energetic, and it just kind of made me so excited to just perform and get on,” Mohammed said. “And then when I got to performing, at that point I just like, ‘Okay, it’s just the words on the page, and all I have to do is read them.’”
Though Mohammed expressed how nervous he felt leading up to his performance, especially after his voice started becoming hoarse and throaty after loudly cheering for Mexico during the opening act, only his confidence shone through as he delivered his two-pronged emotional exploration of his identity as a Mexican American.
“Home is the phone call / where her resonance / whistles through the rustle of corn,” Mohammed said about his grandmother in “Abuela’s Song.”
While Mohammed’s spoken word performance brought with it a distinct mood shift, Martinez and Torterola returned to the stage to keep the showcase lighthearted. At one point, Torterola even comedically asked the audience what its interpretations of the show’s theme were, offering the microphone to those sitting nearby.
“I can’t really answer, but you look very caliente [hot] today,” a member of LASU jokingly flirted in response, calling back to the name of the showcase and sparking a boisterous uproar from the audience.
This staged bit set the humorous tone for the next act, a short, pre-filmed skit titled, “The Truth Behind the Lie.” The skit began with one of the main characters, Christian, getting beaten up by a group of his so-called ‘friends’ who heard from the other main character, Brayan, that Christian was doing a myriad of terrible things to them.
“Brayan told me that Chris took my biddie!” one of the group members said after being asked why he jumped Christian. “Me, personally? I wouldn’t let that slide.”
However, the twist at the end revealed that Brayan wrongly defamed Christian’s character and misled his friends into believing a series of lies about him, illustrating the dangers of acting upon unverified rumors.
“So, yeah, basically, I lied about everything,” Brayan said as attendees gasped and laughed along with the confession. “Everything.”
The audience’s delight with the show continued into the next act, which stood out from the rest with its surprise element of audience participation. The act began with a voiced-over portion that asked audience members to imagine themselves in a tropical beach dream sequence, the voice-over reminiscent of Luis’ fast-paced, hilarious monologues in the 2015 movie “Ant-Man.” However, audience members were soon not only imagining, but also doing; after they watched two beachgoers partake in a simple three-step salsa dance lesson as part of the fantasy sequence, the act suddenly shifted, as everyone on stage began shouting for the audience to get up and try the dance out for themselves.
This short salsa dance preluded the final act for the night, “Ritmo Vivo and Latin Dance Party Mix,” in which dozens of LASU members flooded the stage to dance in a variety of styles: reggaeton, merengue, salsa and bachata. Remixes of more modern songs like “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee and “Después de La Playa” by Bad Bunny excited audience members, who sang and screamed along with the lyrics as LASU members danced on stage. No other descriptor would be more appropriate to say than that the showcase truly ended on a high note.
At the conclusion of the showcase, the attendees moved upstairs to Tidewater to feast on a cultural banquet of dishes, such as Spanish rice, tamales, churros, black beans and sweet fried plantains. During the dinner, a slideshow presentation introduced LASU’s new executive board for the upcoming 2023-24 academic year, offering a more intimate look at the organization and its members after the showcase’s more general presentation of Latin American culture.
Together, “El Chisme Caliente” and “Con Amor” provided LASU members a platform to express and share their cultural pride with the College community through performance, laughter and cuisine.
“The opportunity to contribute to so much cultural unity was just such an amazing, rewarding feeling,” Mohammed said. “… It was such an inclusive event, I was just so impressed by the work that was put in and that made me want to contribute.”