The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

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.

Café con Leche 2023: A night of stars, laughter and dance

The Association of Latin American Students presented the annual Café con Leche with a “celebrity” twist on a “Dancing with the Stars” themed parody.
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Olivia Noell
Students perform at Café con Leche, as captured on Oct. 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Olivia Noell)

As the lights dimmed, silhouettes glided across the stage. Music began to play as the flash of a spotlight illuminated performers in bright red glittery costumes ready to impress the crowd. The Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) presented their annual Café con Leche showcase with this year’s theme being “Bailando Con Las Estrellas” — “Dancing with the Stars.” The performing arts showcase was held on Oct. 28 at Langford Auditorium and highlighted Vanderbilt’s Hispanic and Latinx performers and guest acts. 

The performance itself was introduced by and interspersed with clips of an original take by ALAS students on the hit ABC television series “Dancing with the Stars,” with a focus on the impact of Cuban singer Celia Cruz on Latin culture and performance. The parody featured students playing as prominent Latinx celebrity figures such as pop star Bad Bunny, renowned soccer player Neymar, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others. It was cleverly used to transition between performances by student organizations and guests while introducing the style of dance, the historical significance behind it and the legacy of Celia Cruz.

A variety of dance styles were represented throughout the performance, including salsa, Latin fusion, tango, Mexican Folklorico, Sinaloa Carnaval and Zouk. Seniors Ellen Malek and Lorrie Axelrod, members of the Latin fusion number, shared their experience in the performance.

“I wanted to connect more with my heritage and I have always loved dancing for fun, but I have never done it in a group setting,” Axelrod said. “I thought Café con Leche would be the perfect opportunity to meet new people, have fun and explore that interest.”

Malek echoed this sentiment, sharing her desire to use Café con Leche as an opportunity to try something new.

“I figured senior year would be a good time to do it, alongside my other friends,” Malek said. “Our choreography included elements of salsa, cha-cha, bachata, hip-hop and modern, which was very fun because we had a taste of all the dances.”

Café con Leche co-chairs, Brittany Bretz Martinez and Francisco Paulino thank those who made the show possible, as photographed on Oct. 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Linda Xu) (Linda Xu)

Following the first half of the student showcase, there was a brief intermission. After the break, the hosts and executive board members were recognized for their hard work and dedication to sharing the way that their culture, music and dance bring people together. 

Among the attendees was Abby Kwon, a sophomore, who had already been deeply moved by the performances. She shared her thoughts on the evening, emphasizing the unique aspect of Café con Leche’s inclusivity and cultural exchange.

“Café con Leche brings people together from diverse backgrounds,” Kwon said. “Even though I’m not Hispanic or Latinx, I love how inclusive Café con Leche is — it truly is for everyone.” 

Baile Folklorico graces the stage with their mesmerizing performance, as captured on Oct. 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Linda Xu) (Linda Xu)

The rest of the show was filled with even more laughter and applause as the energy in Langford soared to new heights. Dance acts, Sinaloa Carnaval and Baile Folklorico, graced the stage with their vibrant and spirited performances. Rene Huerta, a sophomore and Folklorico dancer, shared his enthusiasm for the evening.

“I truly enjoyed every moment of it,” Huerta said. “The colorful costumes, the hilarious skit and the camaraderie among the dancers created an atmosphere that was both exhilarating and enriching.”

ALAS seniors bid farewell to their final dance at Café con Leche, as photographed on Oct. 28, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Linda Xu) (Linda Xu)

As the performances drew to a close, the evening took a turn with a heartwarming senior dance dedicated to the Class of 2024. Many of these seniors have attended Café con Leche since their first year, and their journey alongside the show’s growth made this farewell even more special. This moment allowed the seniors to bid farewell to Café con Leche in a way that was as touching as it was inspiring, highlighting the lasting impact of the event and the strong bonds it creates within the Vanderbilt community. 

Café con Leche was a lighthearted way to celebrate Latin culture by bringing people together through humor, pop culture, performance and fun. Café con Leche creates a space for this. No matter what walk of life you come from, performance seems to connect people in a special way that lets us share integral parts of our identity with one another.

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About the Contributors
Bella Guzman
Bella Guzman, Staff Writer and Photographer
Bella Guzman (‘26) is from Charlotte, N.C., and studies human and organizational development and sociology in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her training in the gym, listening to a new podcast or planning her next travel adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].
Daniela Aguilar
Daniela Aguilar, Life Editor
Daniela Aguilar (‘26) is a student in Peabody College double majoring in human and organizational development and economics with a minor in data science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her thrifting, working on a crossword puzzle or watching a video essay. You can reach her at [email protected].
Olivia Noell
Olivia Noell, Staff Photographer
Olivia Noell (‘25) is from Anniston, Ala., and is majoring in neuroscience, medicine, health and society and gender and sexuality studies in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys hammocking, spending time with friends and trying new restaurants around Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
Linda Xu
Linda Xu, Staff Photographer
Linda Xu (‘26) is from Omaha, Neb., and is majoring in cognitive studies and minoring in Spanish for the professions and neuroscience in Peabody College. When not taking pictures for The Hustler, she enjoys arts and crafts and dancing. You can reach her at [email protected].
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