Story by Curtis McAllister, photos by Matt Benoit and Curtis McAllister
The Spanish Club and the Activities Committee held a Cinco de Mayo party in the Syre Auditorium on Wednesday, May 5. Cinco de Mayo, a holiday mostly celebrated in the United States, commemorates the defeat of French troops in the Mexican town of Puebla.
Whatcom Community College’s festivities included a performance from the Music Club, a merengue dance class from the U&Me studio, and a thoroughly beaten piñata. Enchiladas, beans and mock margaritas were served at the Dockside Café during lunch.
“The margaritas tasted like very limey Seven-Up,” said Zach Furness, 25, about the virgin drinks. He was surprised at the big turnout and said the food was really good.
“The enchiladas were all right, but hey, I’m from San Diego,” said Sandra Sefati about the cheese enchiladas.
Darryl “Chocolate Devotion” Trainor, 23, in line for seconds, said the food, discounted by the Spanish Club, was the best deal in the cafeteria.
The Music Club played an opening set at 11 a.m. to a quiet auditorium. The band was entirely acoustic, with no amplification on stage. Students with a wide variety of instruments played.
Most students ate lunch and read textbooks. A few, like Meyyappan Kumar, adjunct instructor of economics, listened, fully engaged with the music club’s performance.
He said the Music Club had a cool arrangement with the horn and flute. The club’s cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” showcased the band’s unique blend of saxophone and flute melodies.
Komar said he would like to hear more music at lunch events in the SSC. The refried beans weren’t the best, but it was all right, he said.
After the Music Club’s last song, a Spanish language solo acapella, the U&Me Dance studio provided merengue lessons. Lecie McNees, a U&Me dance instructor, said that the studio has done three or four dance classes at Whatcom and usually packs the room with participants.
Angela Enderberg, the Spanish Club adviser, recruited students loitering in Syre. Some students eating lunch peeked into the auditorium and walked away, confused.
About 30 students and faculty gathered in the auditorium, intrigued. Every table and chair was cleared for the dance class. From 12:15 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. the lessons on the Dominican dance were free and open to everyone that wandered into the auditorium. Nathan Simler and Lecie McNees from U&Me demonstrated the basic hip-swaying merengue two-step.
“Wake up every morning and do this,” Simler said, emphasizing flexible movement in the shoulders and ribcage.
The dance is a march, McNees said. The feet take turns stepping, otherwise one foot gets jealous, she added. She said that anybody can do merengue. It’s a simple step on every beat. It’s a party dance for quincieñeras, graduations, and parties in general.
The students of the merengue class were then asked to partner up. Nervous laughter moved through the crowd of dancers and into the audience watching from the balcony.
A student watching from the balcony said the merengue class looked funny, cool, and more interesting than his calculus homework. Another student watching from the doorway on the ground floor called the class hilarious and lamented that she had to study for a Spanish test instead of dance for extra credit.
Simler and McNees taught the students to spin each other. On stage, their execution made the spin look deceptively simple and smooth. Simler and McNees led each other through a spin. Their arms crossed and they faced back-to-back momentarily.
First the lead partner’s right hand lead goes over the backup partner’s head. Then the backup’s right hand goes over the lead partner’s head. Then while the partners are back-to-back, the move is reversed with the couple’s left hands.
Partners and groups of partners laughed and found themselves tangled awkwardly when they couldn’t solve the dance move. Relieved expressions and more laughing ensued when a couple stepped through their spin successfully.
McNees and Simler ended the class with a showcase of their own dancing abilities for the class. They received a round of applause. The class dispersed. A few students and faculty remained behind and practiced their dance moves.
The piñata monster made its appearance after the class was over and most of the students and faculty had left.
Tables were wheeled back into position and more students and faculty wandered in with beans, enchiladas and virgin margaritas.
“Here comes the Bear Jew,” said Jay Wiitala, 22, referencing the Quentin Tarantino movie “Inglourious Basterds.”
Shouts from students lining up against the piñata continued to fill the auditorium. A few students and faculty watched from the tables.
One worried aloud about the wooden pole swinging wildly. Another said that piñata bashing is an activity that never seems to be outgrown.
“I got first blood!” Alyssa Russell, 17, said smashing open the neck of the piñata and sending candy flying across the floor.
Darryl Trainor, encouraging Johnny Weaver, the cameraman, to step up and finish off the piñata, shouted, “Make it rain!”
Whatcom’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, put on by the Spanish Club and Activities Committee, took place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Syre Student Center.
Whatcom’s Music Club kicked off the festivities.
The Dockside Cafe served enchiladas, rice, black beans, and mock margaritas.
Dockside Cafe employee Margaret Parsons sports a sombrero.
Bellingham’s U&Me Dance Studio provided free merengue lessons from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
The event ended with the smashing of a piñata.
Alyssa Russell, 17, smashes the piñata, saying, “I got first blood!”