Bienuenidos a CUBA

The smell of Cuban coffee mixed with lechn (roasted pork) filled the air while people danced to salsa music and had their fortunes told at the UC Patio earlier this week, as the Federation of Cuban Students [FEC] hosted their annual “3 Days of Cuban Culture.”

“For the most part, we live in a very Cuban Miami. It’s a second Cuba for most people, but at the University you don’t see much Cuban influence around,” Yadelene Riesgo, president of FEC, said. “The purpose of FEC’s ‘3 Days’ is just to bring our culture out and let everyone get a little taste of what Cuban culture is.”

This FEC tradition of more than 20 years brings students and administration together to celebrate the Cuban culture through music, food, dance and other traditional festivities.

“I feel that [this] serves as a platform for us to let people know what we’re about, and represent our people in a happy and a bright manner,” Evilberto Alvarez, sophomore and member of FEC, said.

“The purpose of FEC’s ‘3 Days’ is just to . . . let everyone get a little taste of what Cuban culture is.” – Yadalene Riesgo, FEC president

Renowned guitarist Juan Navarro played at the opening ceremonies on Monday, accompanied by a local dance troupe.

The next day, a cooking demonstration gave students a taste of Cuban cuisine as arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) was served with salad, fried plantains and Cuban bread. The band Dos Por Cuatro treated people to the flavorful sounds of Cuban salsa to enhance the cultural experience.

“La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” the theme for this year, was portrayed clearly throughout the final day, as students found themselves amidst a carnival, Cuban style. Students danced to live music from a band that played backup for Celia Cruz while an old man rolled up cigars next to the roasted pig. Several students playing dominos in guayaberas (Cuban-style shirts) added to the Cuban atmosphere.

“I like [the Cuban culture],” Kira Knight, a sophomore attending the carnival, said. “I’m from Grenada, which is in the Caribbean, and I think that it [Cuban culture] is really close to our culture in ways like music, and festivals and family, so I can relate to it a lot.”

Students joined in a series of carnival-style games, such as “Tumbar los Frijoles,” a game in which players try to knock down a pyramid of stacked bean cans from a distance. Mike Johnston was crowned victor of the guarapo – a sickeningly sweet drink made of pure sugar cane – chugging contest.

“I hope that all this helps students notice that they are living in a community where there are so many Cubans and that there’s so much Cuban culture around them,” Sonia Fernandez, co-chair of the event, said. “If they can grasp a little bit of it, then we’ve accomplished our goal.”

Christine Dominguez can be contacted at