Raul Flores doesn’t have a second to spare.
He runs from booth to booth, giving orders to dancers and production workers alike. The booths are filled with food from around the world, and onstage a group is getting ready to perform, props in hand.
This was the 31st Annual Multi-Cultural Festival, held last Saturday, May 15, on Oakes Lower Lawn. Flores called the shots this year as the main organizer of the event that hundreds gathered to celebrate.
“This is a space to provide for underrepresented groups on this campus to express and share their knowledge,” Flores said. “It’s all student-run and student-initiated.”
The lawn was alive last Saturday with brightly-colored jewels and costumes. One student sold desserts from her booth hosted by both the Asian/Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA) and the Community Unified Student Network (CUSN).
“The reason why we are doing this is just to share our culture with everybody,” said Yvette Tran, a second-year UC Santa Cruz student associated with APISA.
The night before the event, all participating groups hosted a cook night to make food for the festival and get ready for the expected large turnout.
Groups like the African Black Student Alliance, the Vietnamese Student Association, and Centro Americanos Unidos sold an array of food, including fish and chips, spring rolls, and “platanos,” or cooked bananas.
Sunny Gardona, a fourth-year from Merrill College and co-host for the first half of the show, said she was excited with how well the event turned out.
“It was amazing,” she said. “The work people put into this is amazing.”
Gardona has attended the Multi-Cultural Festival annually since her freshman year. She performed this year with her group, Centro Americanos Unidos.
“We coordinate all our own dances,” Gardona said. “Growing up, we go to family parties and then we bring it here to share with everybody.”
Diante Johnson, a third-year Oakes student and another co-host for the first half of the show, said he tried out for the position because he loves being onstage and getting to share his culture with other groups.
“With all the energy we give to the crowd,” Johnson said. “It’s a really great experience.”
The event was organized by the Multi-Cultural Festival Planning Committee (MCFPC), which comprises delegates from different cultural groups on campus. The groups worked in subcommittees, with each committee assigned to a different element of the event. Committee members putting the event together worked on everything from entertainment to food.
Raul Flores, organizer of the MCFPC, became involved through his previous work as a delegate for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlan.
The event was funded by multiple campus sources, including Student Organization Advising & Resources (SOAR) and various student senates. Flores said the hardest aspect of planning the entire event was the fact that many groups within the MCFPC had contrasting notions about what the festival should be like.
“It’s difficult to plan an event when you’re talking about a committee process,” he said. “That’s always a problem because there are a lot of different ideas, and each person brings a different experience or opinion.”
Despite this roadblock, Flores felt that the event turned out to be a success, and regrets that he will have to give up his position next year.
“Every year it’s always a good event,” he said. “Getting it started is hard, and passing on the torch is hard, but — even if I’m not ready — it’s something I have to do.”