Western’s Amigos Club, one of five organizations under the Multicultural Center (MCC) umbrella, is hosting the 32nd annual Western Carnaval event, described as a “Latino style Mardi Gras,” in the University Center Ballroom beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 for 21+, with presale tickets including two free drinks (from a keg of Dos Equis), and $5 for students under 21 or those opting not to drink. Light food from Sodexo, including nachos, will also be provided to fuel a night of dancing and fun. 

This year’s event will mark a return to the annual celebration for Western, after 2021’s event was canceled due to Covid-19 precautions. In the years prior, celebrations had taken place at the Timbers Bar and Grill, including the 2020 iteration, which snuck in right before the pandemic hit. This year, the event is on campus, and the Amigos Club is excited to share a night of dancing, music, and refreshments with Western’s students. 

La’Ronn Smith, a Western student and DJ, will be providing the evening’s musical offerings, and some select students will be able to contribute an event playlist, which will feature samplings from popular Latin American music genres Bachata, Merengue, and Reggaeton, notes Amigos Club President Dalia Alejandre. 

Brazil’s Carnival, spelled slightly differently, is widely recognized as the largest version of the holiday, drawing millions of Brazilians and hundreds of thousands of tourists to Rio De Janeiro every year the Friday before Ash Wednesday (falling in late February or early March), which marks the start of lent. The event’s name is taken from the Italian phrase “carne levare”, which literally means “to remove meat,” a religious practice for many Catholics during lent. The holiday is essentially one last hurrah before a 40-day lent period of self-imposed moderation. 

Carnival in Rio De Janeiro, 2019

Carnaval as a holiday is a unique blend of Catholic traditions stemming from Europe, mashed up with Latin influences and other local and regional cultures around the world. Typical festivities include elaborate costumes and masks to accompany street parties, parades, and circuses, along with the indulgence of various foods, particularly meats, and a fair amount of drink. With all these factors acting together, the festivities are designed to promote social unity and, in many iterations, the reversal of typical social orders and rules. 

Charles Hammaker, a Western student and the MCC Director, notes that anywhere where you find Catholicism, you will find some localized version of either Carnival (or Carnaval), or its close offshoot Mardi Gras. Rousing annual celebrations of the two holidays persist throughout Europe, Latin America, North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and even Australia. 

“All cultures rely on three things: family, music, and dance,” says Alejandre. Luckily for Western students, at least two of three will be on offer this coming Saturday at Carnaval. 

The Amigos Club will be tabling in the UC with the opportunity to buy tickets on Thursday, March 3 from 12 to 2 p.m. You can also buy presale tickets in the Multicultural Center until Thursday, or right before the event at the door (but without the two free drinks for 21+ individuals). We hope to see you there!