Lebanese American University


Latin fever strikes Byblos campus in two-day cultural festival

The first LAU Latino Festival introduced students to South American culture through film screenings, salsa lessons and music.


Organizers and guests participate in a salsa workshop during the Cuban Evening of the Latino Festival.


Mexican salsa instructor Daniel Vallejo Mertinez teaching salsa on the Byblos campus.


Organizers, Cuban embassy staff and LAU students after the screening of Viva Cuba.


From left: Dr. Gulnar Nader, LAU Spanish instructor; Antonio Lopezrios, cultural attaché in the Embassy of Mexico in Lebanon; Ana-Maria Luca, LAU student who helped in the organization of the event; Jorge Alvarez Fuentes, ambassador of Mexico in Lebanon; and Claudia Maroun, coordinator of Cultural Affairs in the Embassy of Mexico.

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The Byblos campus was hit with a dose of Latin fever when the first LAU Latino Festival was held May 20–21, introducing students to South American culture with popular films and a fiesta atmosphere right before their final exams.

Salsa music blared near the fountain while two professional dancers from Ever Dance —one of the most reputed salsa schools in Lebanon — took students through their first steps toward Latin America in a salsa workshop.

Organized by LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences in Byblos (Department of Humanities and Social Sciences) in cooperation with the embassies of Cuba and Mexico in Lebanon, the festival put the students in contact with the Latin American culture through music, dancing and film.

Latin American spirit was brought to the big screen by two films, one Cuban and one Mexican, screened in Selina Korban Auditorium.

Screened for the first time in Lebanon, Viva Cuba is the story of two children who became friends at school and run away from home after the girl’s mother decides to leave the country. It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.

“While watching it, you also discover the beauty of Cuba, the beauty of my country,” said Maria Isabel Velasquez, the Cuban cultural attaché in Lebanon. “I strongly invite you to organize a group from the university in the summer and come to our country. You will have the possibility to make very good friends.”

The festival ended with the screening of Pan’s Labyrinth, the renowned film about how a young girl coped with pain and loss during the Spanish Civil War made by celebrated Mexican director Guillermo del Toro that landed three Oscars in 2006. “It is one of the most exciting movies produced in recent years by the Mexican cinema,” said Antonio Lopezrios, the Mexican cultural attaché.

Dr. Fouad Hashwa, dean of LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences in Byblos, and Jorge Alvarez Fuentes, the Mexican ambassador to Lebanon, agreed the festival was a first step to strengthening the bridge between the Middle Eastern and Latin American cultures.

“You always need to attract students with more than language classes. The language is only a door to the culture, but they have to discover Latin America through what they like and are attracted to,” Alvarez Fuentes said.


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