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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

ALAS hosts first in-person ‘Café con Leche’ showcase in two years with backdrop of controversy

Event organizers allege that Café con Leche posters were taken down days before the showcase following controversy about the event.
Arianna Santiago
Café con Leche dance, as photographed March 26, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Arianna Santiago)

The Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) hosted their annual spring showcase, Café con Leche, again after an almost two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. ALAS organizers allege that multiple posters advertising the event were removed in the days leading up to the show amid campus controversy about the event and ALAS as a whole.

The event’s theme this year was “Encantado,” which means “enchanted” in Spanish. Per an introductory speech given by sophomore Daniel Martinez and first year Olivia Quiroga, Café con Leche co-chairs, Encantado was chosen as the theme because it is a greeting in Spanish and represents a way to welcome everyone to Café con Leche. It was held from 7-10 p.m. CDT in Langford Auditorium, and 924 tickets were sold.

Quiroga and Martinez started the Café by discussing its theme, announcing guest performances and reading a land acknowledgement

“It was a lot more of an event than I expected,” Owen Rice, a first-year, said. “The dances were good, and it was fun to see some of my friends perform.”

On March 25, ALAS posted a statement on their Instagram page stating that some comments had been made criticizing ALAS on Instagram and YikYak. It alleged that an Instagram comment on ALAS’s previous posts about Café con Leche “directed hate” toward a Cuban undergraduate student who was a panelist for a Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies (CLACX) event. The comments were deleted, and the account was blocked by ALAS.

According to the statement, other comments made on Instagram and Yik Yak “attacked” ALAS, including “Alas ‘POC’ = people of conquistador” and “Alas has a lot of leche but no cafe. Y’all over here looking very ‘poc.’” 

“We condemn the harassment of an individual student,” the ALAS Instagram post reads. “The YikYak comments, on the other hand, bring up valid criticisms. The executive board is composed mostly of white Latinos, because that is who applied.”

The response statement also spoke about YikYaks alleging that white supremacy is evident within ALAS.

“[White supremacy and Anti-Blackness] is a systemic issue that the Latin American community as a whole is all too often complicit in,” the Instagram response reads. “We acknowledge our responsibility to actively combat white supremacy and Anti-Black and Indigenous sentiments on campus.”

Another YikYak in regards to ALAS and Café con Leche read “Yasss like I love when campus orgs push that oversexualized ‘latin’ dance trope,” per the ALAS statement. The statement said the organization is against such oversexualization of Latino culture. Trisha Mazumdar, a first-year, said Café con Leche was “sensual” and “spicy,” but that she enjoyed the show.

“I will definitely be coming back next year,” Mazumdar said.

Event organizers claim that posters for the event disappeared on campus, a topic that the statement claims was also talked about on YikYak. 

“Another YikYak mentioned taking down our banner outside of Rand, which we took as confirmation that the YikYaks and the disappearing posters were connected,” the statement reads.

ALAS President and senior Jessica Prus addressed the controversy during the event, stating a campus discussion will be set up after the event to address concerns. Quiroga similarly said many of the comments about the event and ALAS as a whole were “valid.” 

“The way the controversy was brought up could have been done in a little bit more of a productive manner, but I’m really grateful to the people that did take the time to talk about it,” Quiroga said. “Latinidad is so diverse, and it’s important that we represent all kinds of Latinos, and I know our executive board is committed to doing that in the future.”

The executive board’s statement also included a call to action to university administrators to “hold perpetrators of racist incidents accountable,” to host events educating students over multicultural issues and to increase funding for the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity (SCSJI). A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hustler’s request for comment.

“We are entirely dedicated to upholding these calls to action,” Quiroga said. “ALAS is designed to be a community, and everyone on the Board is fully committed to that statement.”

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About the Contributors
Shunnar Virani
Shunnar Virani, Former Magazine Copy Editor
Shunnar Virani ('25) is majoring in computer engineering and law, history and society with minors in European studies and digital fabrication in the School of Engineering. When he isn't writing for The Hustler, he’s reading about intellectual history, exploring campus events and working on his computer science projects.
Arianna Santiago
Arianna Santiago, Senior Staff Photographer
Arianna Santiago ('24) is from Bremerton, Wash., and studying electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering. When not shooting for The Hustler or for freelance work, Arianna can be found leading campus tours, organizing events for University Catholic, attempting to study and procrastinating her lab reports. You can reach her at [email protected].
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