Junior psychology major, pre-med
Dancer and co-director, Que Rico (Latin dance team)
I am from Ecuador, South America, and I moved to the United States at the age of 8. My family and I have lived in Texas, Florida and now North Carolina. I graduated from Myers Park High School in Charlotte as a part of their International Baccalaureate program, and I am now a junior here at UNC-Chapel Hill.
In my first year of college, finding a sense of community was something I really wanted. When I think about my interests and passions, specifically dancing, I am reminded of the community that I come from and how my culture is such a significant part of my identity. Dancing is a way for me to connect to my roots and not forget where I come from.
I’m a Covenant Scholar, so I really wanted to take full advantage of the scholarship that I received and use every opportunity to grow as a person. When I got here, I thought, “I’m going to try out for something I would not normally do.” So I tried out for a bunch of things like the spoken word poetry team Rejects, and I have always loved to dance. I wanted a space where I could dance and celebrate my own culture and be surrounded by people who love Latin dancing. Que Rico is a subgroup of the Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA). Anyone who wants to learn how to dance is welcome. We dance salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, and we have also included Afro-Latin dances. This is my third year, and now I’m co-director of the group.
My focus of study at UNC is psychology. I love how the whole brain works. It is fascinating to see the differences between physical and mental treatment in medicine and psychology. Studying psychology has given me insight into treating the mind and how mental health is so important and how it affects so many things in our bodies. I’m pre-med, and I study psychology because I wanted to think about the patient in a more holistic way when I become a doctor.
In terms of dance styles, I like salsa and also bachata, which originated in the Dominican Republic. Bachata is more slow and it involves being close with your partner, and salsa is more upbeat, fast and energetic. I really like both styles, but I prefer bachata because I can connect more with the music. Dance is an outlet where I can forget about all the science classes and just focus on what I’m feeling and let my energy out. I love to dance, but when I show it to other people and they see the passion in it — that becomes the art.
Being part of Que Rico has shown me the dancing community in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, which is huge. Que Rico teaches Latin dancing to the UNC student body, we perform at social events and competitions, and we practice our skills inside and outside of campus. We performed last year at TEDxUNC, which focused on “Bodies: Being Human,” and we presented on how bodies can be used to tell a story in Latin dancing. We also do a lot of teaching at CHispA’s Latin nights, and we have a big spring showcase open to everyone.
I’m also really involved with social justice and community service at UNC. I am part of a sorority on campus called Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority Inc., with a focus on empowering women and the Latinx community. At the Campus Y, I am also a part of the Bonner Leadership Program. It’s a four-year commitment (with 10 hours of community service each week) to a nonprofit, and my organization is an afterschool program at Hargraves Community Center. I’ve gotten so much out of it. It’s a lot, but at the end of the day, I’m happy. As a person, you should grow in other areas you are interested in and live fully.
Photos courtesy Kamille Vargas.
Artists After Hours is an occasional feature in which we interview faculty, staff and students who pursue artistic avocations in areas not directly related to their day job and studies. Profiles are archived at our Carolina’s Human Heart website, celebratehumanities.unc.edu. Know someone we should feature? Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.