Baylor University Latino organizations are gearing up to host the largest cultural celebration in campus history. The three-day event includes a Friday night performance by Grammy award-winning La Santa Cecilia, a Los Angeles- based Latin Rock band.

Festival Latino is a showcase of the diversity within the Latin American community, bringing a Latin flare to campus. The goal of this event is to promote a cultural exploration in a fun and relaxed setting, while providing a space for students, alumni and locals to connect.

Austin senior Josh Rizzo, one of the lead festival coordinators said organizers wanted to showcase the rich Latin American experience.

 “We’ve worked together with the Latino community to bring the cultures of Pan American countries right to this campus,” Rizzo said. “It’s one of the only events hosted by Baylor students that’s open to the greater Waco community.”

Catalistas, a networking event, kicks off the festivities on Thursday with a keynote speech by David Benitez, CEO of Intelligent Mexican Marketing. The goal of Catalistas is to connect students with industry professionals.

Highland Village senior Monica Luna, one of five festival coordinators, said that Catalistas is an invaluable opportunity.

 “The event’s focus is to provide a place for students to network with companies and learn more about the role of diversity in the workplace,” Luna said. “We want students to leverage the panel to engage with these professionals and learn about how they make diversity a part of their company culture.”

Gabriela Fierro, also a festival coordinator and with family roots in Colombia, has been the lead organizer of Parranda, the second day of festivities and the coronation of the three-day event. La Santa Cecilia, which will headline the festivities, with their musical fusion is a perfect example of the blending of cultures and the diversity within the Latino community. Parranda will also showcase food from throughout Latin America. Ollimpaxqui Ballet Company will also perform. All free!

Latin America exemplifies the beauty of variety through the countless ideas, cuisine, music, people, dances and cultures in each country,” said Fierro, a sophomore from Houston. “The Festival Latino experience opens our eyes to all that we have yet to discover and can grow to embrace.”

 The festivities conclude on Saturday, April 14, with Raices, an alumni, faculty and student reunion from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a couple of panels and mostly an opportunity to mingle. Free breakfast and lunch. And Bruiser the mascot will be there from 1-3 p.m. to take pictures in the Photo Booth.

Damian Moncada, the Hispanic Student Association president and one of the lead organizers of the festival Latino, said this event couldn’t have come at a better time. In his four years at Baylor he has seen the Latino community grow and with it, wider acceptance.

“When I came to Baylor it definitely was a culture shock and I had to kind of learn how to make a place my own and not only make it my own, but make it a place for everyone else,” said Moncada who grew up in Houston. “Regardless of who you are at Baylor, there should be a place for every student.”