In celebration of its fifteenth year, the Spanish and Latino Students Association will hold their Tropicana dance and dinner celebration this Friday.

SALSA is organized to “give students a chance to promote and showcase Hispanic culture on campus,” said junior Katty Estevez.

With over 30 active members, SALSA puts on a variety of activities throughout the year. The group celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, and has taught salsa dancing lessons at the Hive every Friday night for the last two months.

All of these efforts build towards Tropicana, which ends a week of events that include a social night, a performance by comedian Rich Ramirez and dance lessons which will take place tonight in the Hirst Lounge of Wilson Commons from 8 to 10 p.m.

Tropicana involves a catered dinner and a semi-formal dance, both with live musical accompaniment. The dinner ? catered by a local Latino chef ? will take place in Hirst Lounge before the dance. A harpist will be performing at this year’s dinner.

While SALSA was organized in the early 1970s, Tropicana began in 1987. Early dances featured Rochester performers, but 1997 was the first year Tropicana hosted an internationally known band. Despite small beginnings, turnout at recent Tropicanas have been consistently over 500 people. Preparation for the event begins a full year ahead of time. SALSA negotiated the band’s contract in November, and planning for next year’s event has already begun. “Every year the band and the dinner is better,” said junior and SALSA publicity chair Leonardo Pichardo.

This year’s dance, which is located in Douglass dining center from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., features two DJs from New York City performing the latest hip-hop, salsa, bachata, techno and reggae music and the band Tulile.

The semi-formal atmosphere “gives people a chance to dress up and look good for once,” junior and SALSA social manager Ariel De Leon.

SALSA works with UR admissions to plan that Tropicana falls over Multicultural Visitation Weekend to show visiting minorities that there is diversity on campus and to “make them feel welcome,” Reyes said.

There is a broad mix of cultures in attendance at Tropicana, “more than people would expect,” Estevez said. Reyes said that this blending of cultures supports the goal of SALSA, which is to educate others about their Latino heritage.

“Everyone knows of Tropicana, it’s its own event,” Pichardo said. “It stands by itself away from SALSA.”

De Leon agreed. “Tropicana is a UR tradition,” he said.

DeSantis can be reached at

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