FEC hopes winning streak will continue with fourth victory

Students from Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos participate in the Canes’ spell-out during the Homecoming Opening Ceremonies Friday night. Nick Gangemi // Contributing Photographer
Students from Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos participate in the Canes’ spell-out during the Homecoming Opening Ceremonies Friday night. Nick Gangemi // Contributing Photographer

In the annual race for the Homecoming title between student organizations, many students point to one team that stands above the rest: Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC). With three consecutive overall victories, a historic feat, the organization of Cuban students always poses a threat when the end of October rolls around.

The energy and passion of FEC are apparent during Homecoming events. Students from different organizations call FEC one of the most rambunctious groups that bleed love for their alma mater. Their members can be seen dressed in the same shirts, adorned with paper crowns symbolizing their victories and armed with whistles to be the first to cheer loudly with their infectious chant: “F-E-C pipiripipi.”

Ashley Pittaluga, the chair of the Homecoming Executive Committee (HEC) that organizes the annual event, has witnessed FEC’s dominance for the three years. She said that a team’s success, especially in Homecoming, is based on the love of celebrating traditions as opposed to talent.

“At the end of the day, passion trumps talent,” Pittaluga said.

That passion of late nights and team bonding has translated into three consecutive years of, at the very least, placing in the top three of virtually every event, from opening ceremonies to the King and Queen pageant.

FEC’s winning event, however, is the Alma Mater performance, which they have never lost in the past three years. Creative songwriting and their combined a cappella have helped them immensely, with last year’s rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Jason Derulo’s “Want To Want Me” securing their third alma mater victory.

Lorena Roman, the FEC Homecoming chair, described Homecoming as the “best time of the year.” Roman said she and her fellow members also make it a point to start planning in September, almost two months ahead of actual Homecoming week.

“We have talented people, but when it comes to planning for events, it’s not just one person; everyone will sit in for hours contributing. Even when we had no idea what the theme would be, we just started gathering ideas,” Roman said.

Rick Lin, president of the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO), another competing student group, has participated in two Homecomings and said it is impossible not to notice FEC.

“They do very well in everything and they are very spirited and they are hyped for a lot of things,” Lin said. “They bring out energy. It’s fun competing with them because we both encourage and congratulate each other.”

Alumna Daniela Lorenzo, who served as president of FEC during her senior year in 2015, was part of all three Homecoming wins. She said there was no recruitment process for getting the most talented people; the focus was for members to enjoy themselves, which in turn would pique others’ curiosity to join.

“I think like-minded people attract like-minded people. Since we have a lot of singers and performers, they just attract similar types of people,” Lorenzo said. “Also, because we have a lot of members that are really invested, it just attracts more members that are really invested. There’s just a really positive cycle.”

The members in FEC are also involved in many other ways on campus, including in Student Government, Hurricane Productions, President’s 100 and many others. Roman said the culture in FEC motivates and encourages people to branch out and try different things, molding members to be better leaders. Lorenzo is an example of this, selected last year as the student representative on the Board of Trustees.

Currently attending Harvard Law School, Lorenzo expressed how the university helped unlock her potential, which is why in Homecoming, victory is secondary; the main goal is to celebrate UM.

“Overall though, it isn’t about winning or being a powerhouse, Lorenzo said. “It’s about making sure our members have a home and fall in love with this place.”

United Black Students (UBS) President Beja Turner, who was crowned Homecoming Queen on Tuesday, said the inter-organizational connection the members have is something she greatly respects.

“FEC is a team that rides hard for each other,” Turner said. “They are so passionate about each other from top to bottom, night and day, Monday to Friday.”

This year, UBS has emerged as the major contender for FEC’s title. The organization has firmly secured victories in multiple events, which could dethrone FEC.

UBS came first in Organized Cheer, second in opening ceremonies, third in the Spirit Tree Ceremony, and the group is an alma mater finalist. FEC also placed in all the aforementioned events except for King and Queen, which gives UBS a slight advantage.

The Homecoming King, Antonio Mercurius of UBS, said he enjoys the competition between his organization and FEC.

“We both bring the best out of each other, the great spirit, energy, everything that comes along with this prosperous competition,” Mercurius said. “I am very grateful to consider them a Homecoming rival.”

The results will be announced during halftime at Saturday’s Homecoming football game against the Pittsburgh Panthers.