The sound of beating drums shook the room, each strike reverberated throughout the auditorium to set the tone for the night on Thursday, May 12 in the Performing Arts Center. The whole crowd stood in unison following the commands of the Aztec chanter.
Culture Shock, an annual event put on by the Ethnic Student Center, allows students to share their talents and culture with their peers through traditional dances, vocal performances and spoken word poetry.
“In terms of campus climate I think that this event happens because we need spaces that we feel safe in to express our cultural identity,” Program Coordinator Patricia Pacheco, a program coordinator with the ESC, who identifies as Mexican said.
Culture Shock focuses on the diverse groups of people who are connected to Western. One performer, sophomore Jessica Domingo, who identifies as Filipino, sang an acoustic cover of “Put your Records on” by Corinne Bailey Rae. She said she thinks Culture Shock is a learning experience.
“The benefit [of Culture Shock] is to gain knowledge,” Domingo said. “Respecting how everyone is and accepting who everyone is, and it’s cool because they are expressing it through art and that’s an amazing thing.”
Each performance had a personal relevance to the performers which they provided for the judges along with their talent for selection into the show.
Junior Marisa Munoz, who identifies as Mexican, performed “Volver Volver” by Vicente Fernandez. Munoz shared on stage that it was her late grandmother’s favorite song. “It really just makes me think of home,” Munoz said.
“It’s important to realize that people are different than you and they’re just as beautiful,” Munoz said.
Students of various ethnic identities filled not only the stage, but the seats as well. A call from students for more events like these was prevalent among attendees, freshman Elizabeth Paulson, an audience member who identifies as Caucasian and Pacific Islander said.
“Its nice to see finally some diversity on campus, especially after the Yik Yak incident it’s good to see something that’s very positive,” Paulson said.
Sophomore Anita Tran, who identifies as Vietnamese said she also appreciated the event.
“I think it’s a really great event and I think it should probably be more like once a quarter instead of just once a year,” Tran said. “I think Western is diverse but we don’t get to show it as often as we should.”
Acts audition for a spot in the show and criteria is not just in talent alone. Performers must also explain to the judges how the piece is culturally relevant to them in their lives, ESC Program Coordinator Nate Panelo, who identifies as a Filipino-American said.
Culture Shock started in the early 2000s as a much smaller event put on by the South Asian Students Association, Panelo said. It began as an event called International Student Night before being renamed Culture Shock. Early on it was mostly just a dance showcase which they started to add more cultures to. It eventually expanded into areas other than just dance, Panelo said.