Culture Fest transports students to a world not so far away

The display representing Mexico was decorated with cultural items, such as a sombrero and piñata, at Wednesday's Culture Fest in GCU Arena.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

This year’s Culture Fest was out of this world.

The Multicultural Office event transformed GCU Arena into a galaxy not so far away, where students were invited to orbit around the world through this year’s fun "Star Wars" theme, "Travel the Galaxy: Death Star Tour."

Junior Tewabech Feser (left) and freshman Rayya Gear share cultural items native to Ethiopia.

Students stationed at various tables represented 29 countries, with the second floor of GCU Arena filled with tables showcasing facts about each country, cultural artifacts, jewelry, flags and food samples.

Upon entry, the Multicultural Office's ambassadors handed attendees a passport as they “traveled” the world. Their passports were stamped after visiting each table.

Originally part of the Diversity and Inclusion Department, the Multicultural Office is now part of student programs. Multicultural Specialist Anthony Vela saw the transition as the perfect opportunity to implement new ways of planning events.

Daelyn De-Luz (left) and Megan Lee-Watanabe perform a traditional hula during Culture Fest.

You can thank the students for suggesting the Star Wars theme of traveling the galaxy.

“We just thought if the students are the ones that live here and are on campus, then they should have a say in the type of events we do and how we go about them,” said Vela. “It is important to us to take their advice and it’s been working out great so far.”

Playing the ukulele — an instrument that instantly teleports your thoughts to warm and sandy beaches — was Lei K’aupu-galon, who represented Hawaii. Her name is fitting, as leis symbolize the meaning of aloha: love, friendship, celebration and honor. The flower typically represented in the garland worn around the neck is adorned with an array of flowers native to Hawaii, a common one being the naupaka.

Junior Jazlyn Fernando brought her traditional South India dress and danced during the Multicultural Office's Culture Fest.

The flower, which looks like half a flower, is a reminder of stories passed down through generations.

“They say there was a love story between the two lovers — one from the mountains and the other the water. Their families forced them to be apart, and they eventually died apart,” said K’aupu-galon. “In the mountains, there's a specific type of naupaka and a specific naupaka that grows on the beach. They say when you put them together, the lovers are finally able to be together.”

Senior Marco Ramirez and the GCU Mariachis opened their set with a well-known song in the Spanish culture -- Canta y No Llores.

Students were given a little taste of culture with a buffet of beignets, barbecue chicken, cannolis, pork wontons and bruschetta caprese, but they also explored the taste of music from around the world.

The Multicultural Office encouraged students to get their passport stamped after visiting a table representing a country.

The sound of blaring trumpets, warm-toned guitars and powerful vocals wrapped the Arena halls as the GCU Mariachis opened their set with "Cielito Lindo" ("Lovely Sky" or when used as a term of endearment, "My Lovely Little One") — a popular Mexican song with its famous chorus that begins, "canta y no llores," translated to "sing and do not cry."

The festivities enabled the students to explore what makes us both unique and the same — a reminder of our true identity.

“It shows the beauty of diversity and what the GCU student body represents. It also shows who God is because He made everybody in the world,” said Multicultural student director Hannah Trescott. “He made all of us, and we are His children no matter where we came from, where we were born or where we live. We are all His.”

Contact staff writer Lydia P. Robles at 602-639-7665 or [email protected].

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