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‘Overwhelming joy’: ¡Ritmo! celebrates community, resiliency

Mark Munyi / Thresher

By Kristal Hanson     1/30/24 11:20pm

Rice’s Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment hosted its annual cultural extravaganza, ¡Ritmo! on Saturday, Jan. 27. The event, themed “Lo Que No Me Mata, Me Alimenta,” translating to “What Doesn’t Kill Me, Nourishes Me,” aimed to celebrate the resilience of the Latine community.

The theme of resilience rang true as HACER’s Cultural Events Committee, in charge of organizing Ritmo, grappled with a $6,000 budget cut. Melissa Mar, a member of the Cultural Events Committee, expressed disappointment in the reduced financial support from the university, sponsors and Rice figures.

“Throughout the committee all of us kind of agreed that we felt a little bit under supported and we felt that maybe Rice didn’t place as much value on the event as we had hoped,” Mar, a Duncan College junior, said.

Committee head Camila DeAlba also noted President Reggie DesRoches’ absence from the donor list. She said this was a change from the regular, annual support HACER has received in the past from both DesRoches and David Leebron, DesRoches’ predecessor.

“One of the biggest things for us has been that President DesRoches hasn’t responded to us this year,” DeAlba, a Jones College junior, said.

Kimberly Vetter, the Director of Presidential Communications, said in a statement to the Thresher that this lack of funding was an administrative oversight. 

“The president has consistently supported HACER since he has been president,” Vetter wrote in an email to the Thresher. “This recent request was an administrative oversight, and we plan to reimburse HACER for their expenses and look forward to supporting their next event.”

At the time of publication, DeAlba said that information about reimbursement had not yet been communicated to HACER. While the budget for Ritmo has already been finalized, she added, HACER is always open to donations for future events, and she hopes to see DesRiches at future cultural showcases.

This year’s decreased budget was a curveball for the committee, she added. 

“We’ve been running around trying to figure out where to cut budgets and who else to ask for help,” DeAlba said. 

The decrease in sponsors limited food servings, in turn capping the number of at-the-door tickets available. In past years, HACER has been able to sell over 100 at-the-door tickets. This year, at-the-doors tickets were capped at 20, forcing students to sign on to a lengthy wait list in hopes of attending Ritmo. 

Despite financial hurdles, Ritmo dazzled with musical performances. Students Elmo Garza and Teddy Hubbard performed musical renditions that had the whole crowd singing along. Rice’s student band Los Búhos del Norte got the audience on their feet and dancing. 

Attendees said the music also served as an opportunity for students to strengthen ties with their culture. Arianna Porras, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said Ritmo helped her reconnect with her heritage as a freshman and continues to do so today. 

 “My freshman year I spent a lot of time not being connected to my roots and I was really sad about it. My first Ritmo show I remember being so emotional,” Porras said. “There was a mariachi band, and I was tearing up … I was like, ‘Oh my god that’s me right there’ … so to me, this is like home.”

Mar said that this sort of emotion — feeling connected to home and cultural roots — is one of Ritmo’s biggest goals.

“Every year it kind of brings me to tears, and I’ve talked to people where they’re like, ‘I was in tears too,’” Mar said. “And I’m like, ‘That was the goal. I wanted you guys to feel overwhelming joy and a sense of community.’”

Aside from music, Ritmo featured a variety of unique acts. These included an Argentine Tango performed by Indre and Rodrigo and a samba performance by Sambabom DanceHouston that was complete with large headgear, bejeweled unitards and sparkly heels. The night ended by offering attendees an array of Latin food including pupusas, tacos, empanadas and conchas, all from Latine owned businesses. 

Many attendees, like Naidely Dela Cruz, said they felt that Ritmo was a beacon of cultural pride, echoing sentiments of belonging and empowerment. 

“I feel like Hispanics don’t really have much representation here at Rice, and [Ritmo is] that one night where we can just show off to everyone our culture,” Dela Cruz, a Brown College junior, said.

“Ritmo is like a voice for me,” Porras added.

Hadley Medlock contributed to reporting.

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