The Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) is putting on its first cultural show in years, after debt and controversy from its last show knocked the annual tradition out of the limelight.
This will be OLAS’s first cultural show since spring of 2009. According to the event’s organizers, its relaunch was motivated by the desire to raise awareness about OLAS and the enthusiasm of the RSO’s members.
“We’ve worked to bring it back because we think it’s important for people at UChicago to learn more about Latino identity and about OLAS as an RSO,” said third-year Darcy Zaretsky, the show’s co-chair.
According to fourth-year and co-chair Marco Villanueva, problems from the previous production led to the show’s recent absence.
The 2009 show put the organization in debt, and in 2008 OLAS drew criticism when it was seen to promote offensive Latin American stereotypes.
Over the last three years, OLAS has held smaller events in place of the cultural show in an attempt to recruit more members. According to Zaretsky, these events have included “Baila con OLAS”, a quarterly event featuring food, music, and dance, as well as movie screenings and discussion groups. Last May, OLAS put on what was essentially a smaller version of the cultural show, “OLAS en Concierto.”
“I think when we saw that we could pull off these smaller events successfully, we thought we might as well take the plunge and bring the cultural show back,” Villanueva said. “OLAS is a cultural RSO, so something was clearly missing.”
This year, OLAS aims to avoid social commentary and concentrate instead on the performances themselves.
“The theme for this year’s show is a cruise around Latin America. We have strayed from plays or gimmicks and decided to focus more on cultural presentations through dance,” Villanueva said.
“In each place that we land, we see a dance or another performance from that country. We wanted to focus more on the culture and the dance and the design rather than a storyline,” Zaretsky said.
Zaretsky also attributes the cultural show’s return to stronger organization within OLAS with focused leadership which has “really set a good tone for the group” bolstered by enthusiastic involvement in the show by 60 dancers and 40 to 50 volunteers
“It’s not a small show by any means, which I am really happy about,” she added.
This year’s show is particularly significant to the graduating fourth-years, who had just entered the University when the last OLAS Cultural Show was held.
“I feel like a lot of the graduating seniors felt like this was important to them, so we wanted to bring it back now,” Zaretsky said.
Villanueva, who will be graduating this year, expressed a similar enthusiasm for the show.
“We are hoping to go out with a bang.”