40 Years of Multicultural Festival

A preview of the largest event on campus

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At the preview for the Multicultural Festival in Quarry Plaza, organizations including Hermanos Unidos and Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas table to bolster interest in the event. Photos by Lluvia Moreno.

Every year, students from ethnic identity organizations at UC Santa Cruz stage the largest collaborative event on campus. For half a day, the Multicultural Festival (MCF) will turn the Porter Dining Hall into a space of cultural discovery and exchange through food, music and performance.

This year marks the 40th annual MCF, which will take place on May 18 from noon to 6 p.m. With two more student organizations than last year, this year’s iteration is sure to be the largest undertaking of the already ambitious celebration yet. 

“Many students can go their entire school year never having participated in multicultural events, which is what makes MCF so appealing,” said festival co-chair Alan Jacobo-Guzman in a press release. “It is the first time students can try their favorite traditional dishes on campus, it showcases performances by students of color, and is a space for the entire community of Santa Cruz to enjoy each other’s cultures.”

Seventeen ethnic student organizations, including Bayanihan, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) and identity-focused Greek organizations, will be represented on May 18, giving students of UCSC the opportunity to sample a wide range of cultures. Each year, the festival adopts a theme that organizers feel is relevant to that year’s production.

Planning

The theme of this year’s MCF is “Together We Resist, Together We Persist,” which is meant to highlight the challenges that ethnic communities face on campus and across the country. This theme makes up the festival’s central message and binds together all the other aspects of the event.

When orchestrating such a large-scale event, it’s important to know the best ways to engage with other groups’ heritage, traditions and customs. This is why MCF puts an emphasis on food, music and performance, things that can be found throughout the world.

One of the biggest draws of MCF is the cuisine. Ethnic organizations cook and sell food and drinks ranging from tostilocos to Thai tea. In total, the organizations participating in the event prepare over 20 separate dishes. 

“The purpose of the Multicultural Festival is the fact that we want people to enjoy the food that they’re eating,” said Fidel Zea, a third-year student and member of Sigma Phi Beta who is one of the food co-chairs for the event. “We want to have the organizations enjoy the food that they’re serving because it relates something back to their culture and their background.”

While the event is free and open to the public, visitors will have to buy any food they would like to try. The proceeds go to the individual organizations that put in the time and effort to craft the dishes.

Performance

Ruby Ibarra, a Pilipinx-American rapper from San Lorenzo, California, is the headlining artist for this year’s MCF. Ibarra raps about her personal experience of immigrating to America and sheds light on her own cultural heritage through her music.

UCSC student groups will also perform prior to Ibarra’s set, preparing the crowd with both traditional and contemporary music. The student organization Mariachi Eterno is slated to perform, as is Isang Himig, the a capella group under  Bayanihan.

Student groups will perform dances, spoken word and martial arts, among other kinds of cultural displays. One such group is Los Mejicas, which will perform three types of Mexican folkloric dances.

Fourth-year Julie Guzman said that she is looking forward to the variety of the show. As an entertainment co-chair for MCF, Guzman enjoys seeing how cultures can differ from one another and share similarities  features.

This year also marks the introduction of a visual art aspect to the event. Organizers are introducing a collaborative painting that features students’ representations of this year’s theme. This is the first step toward a greater inclusion of cultural art in future MCFs.

MCF is the largest student-organized event on campus at UCSC. Its age and popularity testify to the importance of creating spaces where different cultures become the center of attention in an environment that normally doesn’t make room for them.

“[MCF is] an opportunity for the organizations who might not have enough representation to make some money back using the opportunity that the university has given them,” said food co-chair Fidel Zea. “But it’s also an opportunity for them to represent themselves because they’re the ones that are cooking the food, serving the food [and] talking about it. And in that way, their representation the day of has them talk about their experiences. I think that’s the most important aspect of this entire event.”


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