Fun, food and flamenco: Students and faculty celebrate Spanish culture with “La Noche Cultural”

Nerine+Uyanik+%2812%29+and+Simren+Gupta+%2812%29+dance+together+during+the+salsa+competition+of+%22La+Noche+Cultural.%22+The+salsa+competition+took+place+at+the+end+of+the+night%2C+after++the+dinner+and+student+performances.

Erica Cai

Nerine Uyanik (12) and Simren Gupta (12) dance together during the salsa competition of "La Noche Cultural." The salsa competition took place at the end of the night, after the dinner and student performances.

by Amruta Dharmapurikar and Sally Zhu

Vibrant banners line the walls of the auxiliary gym, circling around the multi-colored round tables topped with toy maracas, sombreros and balloons that float nearby. As preparations and decorations are finalized, the bustle of excited students and beats of lively Spanish music starts to fill the air as a night of celebration— of not just a people, a language or a cuisine, but of a culture—begins.

This year’s annual Spanish Cultural Night, or “La Noche Cultural,” was hosted by the Spanish National Honor Society (SNHS) on March 6 in the auxiliary gym. Throughout the event, open to any who had taken a Spanish course in the past, faculty and students alike celebrated Spanish culture and language through traditional food and performances.

“I like everything about La Noche Cultural. It’s an opportunity for kids to enjoy the fun aspects of the language, which are food, music, dancing. They have an opportunity to express themselves in kind of a creative and fun way, and we get to party,” upper school Spanish teacher Diana Moss said.

Students first gathered in long lines inside the auxiliary gym, eager to try the paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish, prepared by members of SNHS, along with Moss and upper school Spanish teacher Isabel Garcia. Attendees enjoyed three types of paella — shrimp, chicken and vegetarian — along with tamales, chips with guacamole and a ham and cheese plate as a part of the main course. 

Students from all grade levels then gathered together to perform some of their favorite Spanish songs. Their audience reminisced over the sweet bitterness of “Recuérdame” from “Coco,” and laughed over the nostalgic “Vamos a la Playa,” a popular song generally introduced in the middle school Spanish curriculum.  

Some other highlights among the 15 groups that performed were upper school math teacher Jeanette Fernandez and Jacob Fernandez’s (9) traditional dance, which they have performed for many years at La Noche Cultural; Ada Praun-Petrovic’s (9) dramatic interpretation of Pablo Neruda’s famous “Ode to the Apple” and singing performances by Bel Canto and Cantilena.

“I really enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere. The performances were cool, and I liked to translate for the people who didn’t understand [all of the] Spanish,” Aria Jain (9), who is currently taking Honors Spanish 3 and attended the event, said.

During an intermission, students crowded around a large Tres Leche sheet cake, waiting to taste the traditional creamy Latin American dessert. 

Aside from organizing La Noche Cultural, SNHS members also interview Spanish-speaking staff members and go on trips together, to places like Madrid, Sevilla and Córdoba. Members also cover news with a focus on the Hispanic world, with topics ranging from immigrants to politics, and publish a variety of articles and pieces created by students on the society’s online website, Pórtico

“I think it’s important to teach people about the Spanish culture because as the Spanish National Honor Society, that’s what the purpose of our organization is,” Ashley Jazbec (12), a member of SNHS, said. “[Our goal is] to spread awareness about Spanish culture and to encourage people to appreciate it in our community.”