LASO ropes in student body for Super Bowl watch party

In what will go down as a comeback for the ages, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 on the heels of two other comebacks to secure Super Bowl LIV’s Lombardi Trophy, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes receiving the honor for the night’s Most Valuable Player. The game was everything fans could have asked for, a close match between very evenly matched teams with an exciting finish. For many viewers, however, what happened between the second and third quarters was just as significant as the game itself.

“The halftime performance was truly a spectacle that showcased two strong and successful Latina women. (…) I’m so proud of Shakira for singing and speaking in Spanish, definitely one of the best halftime shows ever!”

That was Benito García, Social Chair for The LatinX Appreciation Student Organization at Western Carolina (LASO for short). LASO hosted a Super Bowl watch party on the 5th floor of Noble Hall, which saw more than 40 people arrive to celebrate the festivities. The Community Service Chair for LASO, Zanaya Salaam, was also delighted by how the festivities turned out.

“Honestly, it was absolutely amazing to have some of our LatinX Appreciation Student Organization members at our watch party, and we all watched the halftime show together. The performance was absolutely beautiful!”

Super Bowl LIV’s halftime performance was headlined by Shakira, a world renowned pop star from Barranquilla, Colombia, and Jennifer Lopez, a Bronx, New York born singer and actress of Puerto Rican descent. They were accompanied by guest singers Bad Bunny (from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) and J Balvin (from Medellin, Colombia).

Its significance cannot be overstated. For millions of Americans who come from Hispanic backgrounds, this show served as an example of excellence from people who look like them, a gateway to see themselves in these celebrities. Modern political discourse has put the LatinX community in a rocky spot, where they often feel isolated or even ashamed because of how their heritage is portrayed. This discourse seeps into communities all over the country, leading to a sense of confirmation for many who already have ignorant, and often racist, preconceived notions.

The show included subtle political messages in its imagery. Towards the end of the performance, children in cages could be seen in the backdrop; Lopez’s daughter, Emme Maribel Muñíz, sang the chorus of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” while her mother donned a Puerto Rican flag on her back. Puerto Rico has been a staple in the present day news cycle, thanks in large part to the current administration’s management of natural disasters that have plagued the island, an unincorporated territory of the United States for 121 years.

Emanuel Mendoza-Marroquín, who attended the watch party, shared his sentiments on the matter of representation, and how people can help.

“Latinx representation from two international superstars is very needed, especially considering how the Latinx community has recently been talked about and treated. They utilized an event that is seen by the entire country to show that Latinos are present and we have a voice.”

“The symbolism behind a lot of their entire performance was to be the voice for those who do not have one. This made me feel empowered to utilize my voice to advocate for those individuals who can not utilize their voice, as well as inspire more people to be that voice.”

Ms. Salaam, raised by a Puerto Rican mother herself in South Carolina, put it best when describing how it felt to be represented on that stage.

“The cultural presence was strong and it was inspiring. To see so much LatinX pride on stage yesterday made me so proud to be Latina and Boricua!”

While many will categorize this show as overly political and inappropriate, it is quite clear the LatinX community here at Western Carolina University and at large appreciates the undeniable display of culture and empowerment for an ever growing community that sorely needs it.