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HACER’s ¡Ritmo! celebrates community resiliency and futurity


“Baker College junior Victoria Saeki-Serna practicing for ¡Ritmo! Courtesy of HACER 

By Michelle Gachelin     3/23/21 10:31pm

¡Ritmo! is known for being an explosion of vibrant colors, sounds and style, and for the members of Rice’s Hispanic community involved onstage and behind the scenes, it’s both a celebration of their cultures and a testament to their perseverance. The annual showcase is the chef-d’œuvre of the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice. This year’s Ritmo (Spanish for “rhythm”) will be screened virtually at watch parties hosted by each of the residential colleges on Saturday, March 27. The event will include singing, dancing, poetry recitation and other artistic interpretations from both Rice students and members of the larger Houston community.

“We really hope that when students see Ritmo, they can feel the connection, they can feel the beauty of it, but also they can understand some of the challenges that we’ve faced as a community,” said Yessenia Ramos Silva, HACER’s Cultural Committee Chair. 

The theme for this year’s show is “Raíces en el Pasado Creciendo Hacia el Futuro” (roots from the past growing into the future), an homage to the perseverance of the Hispanic and Latinx community throughout the years, said Cultural Committee member Karen Martinez Perez. 

“We wanted to not only pay tribute to our roots and our backgrounds and especially what our ancestors have done for us before, but also how our generation especially has been taking from that and breaking through so many barriers,” Perez said. “In recent years we have had many obstacles and challenges … but we still kept on going, and that’s what we wanted to focus on.”

Planning this year’s Ritmo has proven difficult in light of the pandemic, which mandated the show’s virtual format and performers’ adherence to strict social distancing rules. Performances were pre-filmed earlier this month, which required substantial planning to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. 

“A lot of the cultural showcases and pieces had to be transferred into an online method, which logistically was not the easiest thing to do, but we all put in some elbow grease to keep the show going,” incoming treasurer Elimelek Acuna said. 

Adapting the show to a virtual platform presented additional hurdles for the event’s organizers. Initially slated for premiere in the fall, the show was pushed back to the spring semester to allow more time to coordinate with performers. The delay presented concerns about conflicting timelines with other events held in the spring semester such as Beer Bike and Africayé. Unforeseen events like the winter storm further pushed back their plans. 

The organizers persevered in spite of these setbacks, and decided to take advantage of the residential colleges’ lively, tight-knit communities for Ritmo’s virtual showing. Each college will be hosting watch parties of about 30 to 60 people. They will also be delivering tacos and chips to students, who can order ahead of time through a Google form. However, coordinating these plans with each college hasn’t been easy. 

“Communication has definitely been challenging. [We’re] still in the process of getting everything situated, but it’s been difficult,” sophomore Yessenia Ramos Silva said. 

As the only one of Ritmo’s organizers who has had the chance to see Ritmo in person, Ramos Silva expressed her hopes for maintaining the show’s vibrancy and emotion on a virtual platform. 

“There’s definitely a lot of connection in person, so in planning this year’s Ritmo, that has always been one of my concerns. I want people to feel connected to Ritmo the way I did my freshman year,” Ramos Silva said.

Ramos Silva credited her team’s positive dynamic for facilitating the adjustments they’ve made to the show. Despite not having seen the event pre-pandemic, the rest of the team took inspiration from both Ramos Silva’s experience and the positive impressions Ritmo made on older HACER club members.

The organizers’ shared love for the HACER community has been a motivating factor throughout the challenges they’ve faced. 

“There’s a reason people undertake this stress,” Acuna said. “It’s because you have a passion for it and you really want to share that passion with the rest of your community. And at the end of the day, that’s what Rice allows you to do.” 

Acuna said that since HACER has been hosting events and meetings virtually, it’s been more difficult to maintain the club’s engagement this year. In spite of this, they’ve engaged members through game nights, panels and last semester’s HACER Grammys, which compiled submissions in nine categories including comedy skits and telenovela scenes. The club’s supportive dynamic has continued to foster creativity and inclusion, inspiring members to give back to the community by coordinating events like Ritmo. 

“I relied on HACER for me to feel comfortable and get used to Rice. Being able to be a part of my community and feel like I belong at Rice was very beneficial for me,” Cultural Committee member Jesus Galvan said.

Martinez Perez, a freshman from McMurtry, echoed the value of HACER’s celebration of Hispanic culture. 

“Coming in [to Rice], I knew I wanted to be a part of the team that helps create that, because I thought it was so beautiful that there is this great community that fully embraces our culture. I want to do my best to really communicate this pride that we have [for] everything that we’ve been through and who we are.”

At its core, Ritmo champions unity and resilience through adversity. It’s the culmination of a months-long endeavor by HACER’s dedicated community. Despite a year filled with hardships and loss, they’ve finally found their rhythm again.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming email from your A-Team or student leaders for more information about your college’s streaming event for Ritmo

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