Students attending ASU's Salsa Club meet twice a month to dance to salsa and bachata music, but for some, it offers an opportunity to stay connected to their Latinx culture.
While students of all different backgrounds come to Salsa Club to interact and build a community through dance, ASU junior Maria Guevara said it was a way of bringing a piece of home with her to campus.
Guevara, who is majoring in interdisciplinary studies, said the music that she dances to in Salsa Club is similar to the various other music that she danced to back home at family get-togethers.
“I came to campus and I actually had a culture shock, because there was a lot of people who didn't look like me," she said. "I really couldn't find somewhere that I belonged."
Guevara said she began talking to another Latinx friend that she met in class, who mentioned they had taken a class at the Salsa Club.
Guevara said she decided to join and has been going ever since.
The club offers dance lessons to people of varying skill levels and offers a social setting where participants can chat and meet new people while dancing.
Guevara said that, though she found a community that helped her feel more connected to her identity, Salsa Club is open to all people no matter their background.
This sentiment is represented throughout the entirety of the Salsa club: People of different origins gathered together, dancing to rhythms as complex and diverse as the group.
Ettienne Aguilar, a senior studying electrical engineering, said he finds aspects of the Salsa Club presenting themselves in his everyday life.
"A lot of the music is in Spanish too, so it makes me have to force myself to speak Spanish more often," Aguilar said. "Since I am away from home, it's primarily English. Listening to music has really helped me remember. I do feel like language is the strongest root of culture."
Aguilar said the club has helped him connect with other Latinx people that attend the dances and share their heritage. He said he is also proud that he can then take what he learns and present it to new people outside of his culture.
Meredith Grula, a junior studying computer science and an instructor for Salsa Club, explained the origins of the dance.
“When the slaves were brought over from Africa to Cuba to work on the plantations, they combined their different percussion styles together and dance styles together," Grula said. "There were some dances that were Cuban-based and African-based, and then they got merged together into groups of percussion dances."
For those who attend Salsa Club and find a new passion, they have the option to take a Session B, one-credit class known as “Sol Motion Immersion.” The class extends on the lessons taught in Salsa Club to prepare students for the Latin Sol Festival that Salsa Club throws.
Latin Sol is a three day event that includes lectures, workshops and social dancing, which is also open to the greater Phoenix community.
Guevara said that the club continues to provide a space for her and other Latinx students to reconnect to their heritage.
“I felt like taking a Latin class would somehow make me feel more at home," she said. "Being a part of the Salsa Club, being a part of the Salsa community has really brought me back to my roots."