Good Vibes at ENLACE Pub Nite

by Olivia Robbins 

For many at Swarthmore, Thursday nights are synonymous with Pub Nite – a weekly party held at Paces, the student-run café, with drinking games, music, and dancing.  For many, the scene has become monotonous and geared towards a specific audience. Transformed, however, was this past Thursday’s Pub Nite.  ENLACE, Swarthmore’s Latinx student organization, hosted Pub Nite, controlling the music and decorations for the evening. Freddy Bernardino ‘18 wrote to Voices that “ENLACE chose to host Pub Nite because we wanted to have a night where we were in full control of the playlist (except that closing time song, that’s not us). We want to have a night where Latinx music is more than just that one mainstream reggaeton song on the radio and more than just Gasolina and Suavemente.”

The music blasted as students danced and enjoyed themselves, ENLACE’s hosting Pub Nite allowing Latinx students to reclaim a typically white space. Diana Martínez chronicles her own experience with Latinx music, having stated “to me, Latinx music reminds me of home. It’s also my favorite type of music. Whether it’s Vicente Fernandez, Juanga, Romeo Santos, or J Balvin, this is the type of music that gets me going…However, I only hear it in my dorm or if I’m with friends. It never comes on at campus parties (with the exception of Gasolina or Despacitio).”

Indeed, the music for October 26th’s Pub Nite was notably different from the usual music that Pub Nite plays.  The playlist focused on Latin music with artists from Shakira to Daddy Yankee to Pitbull.  David Melo ‘21 noted that the change in pace was necessary and exciting. “Sometimes you get tired of your usual pop and hip-hop blasting at these things,” Melo said. “All the songs represented Latinx people and it was fun to hear.” With Latin music blasting through the speakers and Latin American flags hanging on the walls of Paces, ENLACE Pub Nite made an impression.

“We have no choice but to make spaces to celebrate our existence here when the institution and this country do not,” Esteban Cabrera Duran ‘18 explains. The importance of a Latinx party space, for many students, goes beyond fun, inclusive music. At Swarthmore, Latin American and Latino Studies is not recognized as a full department. Only thirteen percent of the student body identifies as Latinx (even though almost eighteen percent of Americans do).  The number of Latinx professors is low, and for many, representation is lacking. Inclusive party spaces at Swarthmore often provide a valuable experience for all students on campus; ENLACE Pub Nite presented a rather poignant shift in power dynamics, allowing Latinx students to invite others into their space to learn and enjoy while establishing increased cultural agency.

Throughout the night and subsequent days thereafter, thoughts from some members of ENLACE and Latinx students at Swarthmore surfaced about what it means to have a Latinx-hosted space:

Melo explains that “sometimes you don’t get to see too much of your culture or identity represented at a PWI [Predominantly White Institution]. As a Latinx LGBTQ+ member, having a space like this gives me a more comfortable sensation to be free and dance however and dress however.”

Austin Yanez ‘21 expressed similar sentiments of belonging in a space that does not typically cater to the Latinx community. “It is not often that Latinx values, culture, interests, and concerns take a significant stage in Swarthmore social life. The Paces take-over gives an opportunity to the Latinx community to enjoy a short time where their culture dominates Swarthmore's main party venue. As someone who identifies as Latinx, I find these events especially validating and fulfilling,” Yanez said. “While I was at Pub Nite, I felt the focus shifted to Latinx identifying persons. It felt as though Latinx people had the power to set the mood of the party because so many people were watching them to learn how to interact with their culture properly.”

Jessica Hernandez ‘20 adds that  “when I hear there’s a party hosted by one of the affinity groups on campus, I know it’s not going to be like a typical Swat party. My mind immediately thinks of the party playlist, but I also think about the space itself and the people in it. Having these kinds of parties is important because it allows for affinity groups, like ENLACE, to create the type social space that they want. It also brings new faces to the party scene that might usually be underrepresented."

Bernardino furthers that “as a senior, ENLACE hosting pub night is the one night I know I can go to Pub Nite and know that I’m going to be dancing all night. I also know that many Latinx students are going to be there and not only will we be dancing but singing songs we’ve been listening to since our childhood.”

Cabrera Duran explains that ENLACE Pub Nite “breaks from the overwhelming whiteness of campus party culture. That’s not to say that those white folks who organize and host pub night don’t play Latinx music, but they rather play music that they’ve massively consume that they’ve tied to Latin people that essentially homogenize us and ignore the cultural diversity in Latin America. It’s hard in the white imaginary to conceive us Latinx people as different, but we are and have been. We’ve known this all along.”

Roberto Jimenez ‘18 echoes those sentiments, commenting that “Most Pub Nites do not have a lot of Latin music on their playlists. When they do, it’s usually very mainstream Latin music or Latin music that has crossed over into American culture (ex: Despacito). ENLACE Pub Nite is mostly all Latin music and plays music that some people may not be too familiar with, but that is still extremely danceable.”

Cabrera Duran concludes: “they come for our foods and our parties, but never are there to hear our stories and our lives.” With increased attention to inclusive spaces, ENLACE seeks to not simply create a space for parties, but also a space for dialogues to advance the cultural agency of the Latinx community as a whole.