‘Vibra Cubana’: A celebration of Cuban culture by FEC

By Isabella Martinez and Lauren Whitesell

The Week of Cuban Culture is an annual week of festivities hosted by the Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos. This week is meant to keep the Cuban culture alive and present at the University of Miami.

From March 18 to 22, FEC hosted their Week of Cuban Culture, this year themed “Vibra Cubana,” a fun play on the popular reggaeton festival “Vibra Urbana” which recently preceded the Cuban spirit week.

“We host WOCC annually to educate on the Cuban culture, and spread awareness to what’s going on in Cuba today. FEC wants to give every Cuban student at the University of Miami a home and a place to feel welcomed,” said Daniel Fernandez, FEC President.

Along with sharing the Cuban culture with the University of Miami community, the week of events is also meant to bond the members of FEC, creating ties that will continue to develop in semesters to come.

“This week in particular is always a great bonding experience for all the members and our current and future executive boards. I truly enjoy getting to spend time with my friends as well as meet new people who come to our events,” Ryan Cameron, a junior majoring in economics and the secretary of FEC, said.

Monday evening also brought many Cubans and ’Canes together to play in its traditional domino tournament at the Rathskeller. A favorite pastime of the Cuban and greater Latino community, the competition positioned teams of two to battle for the chance to win gift cards for the on-campus sports bar.

Students gather at The Rathskeller to play in the annual FEC Week of Cuban Culture Domino Tournament. Photo Courtesy of FEC.
Students gather at The Rathskeller to play in the annual FEC Week of Cuban Culture Domino Tournament. Photo Courtesy of FEC.

As a midday pick-me-up on Tuesday, March 19, FEC served cafecito and Cuban pastries at The Rock Plaza during the day.

“One of our favorite WOCC traditions is Cafecito on the Rock where we get to give students “Honorary Cuban Certificates” while we have them answer Cuban trivia and enjoy Cuban pastries,” said Fernandez.

In partnership with Category 5, the student spirit group, FEC also gave away unique sweatshirts at the University of Miami vs. Florida International University baseball game that took place that same evening at the Mark Light Stadium. Though the Miami universities battled it out in a close game, the ’Canes ultimately ended up taking home the win with a score of 4-3.

The rest of the week featured much more educational programming, as seen with FEC’s collaboration with the Lowe Art Museum for a Cuban artist panel on Wednesday, March 20 and the organization’s “Cafecito Talks” event in Lakeside Auditorium featuring several guest speakers.

Students pose at "Cafecito Talks 2024" with Dr. Michael Bustamante and Dr. Daniel Pedreira. Photo Courtesy of FEC.
Students pose at "Cafecito Talks 2024" with Dr. Michael Bustamante and Dr. Daniel Pedreira. Photo Courtesy of FEC.

On Thursday, March 21, FEC hosted a tour of the Cuban Heritage Collection, which is located on the second floor of the Richter Library and is home to the largest collection of Cuban archives located outside of Cuba.

Aylin Xenes, the cultural chair of FEC, has spent hours working on this event with the rest of the executive board and was more than excited to bring the week to fruition, calling it more than just a celebration.

“The purpose behind this week is not only to celebrate the culture of the island, but also to further educate the UM campus and community,” said Xenes. “FEC plays a big role on campus as one of the oldest organizations at UM, and we view this week as our opportunity to share a more in-depth look into the various Cuban customs and traditions that have shaped our org into what it is today.”

FEC later joined student events group Hurricane Productions and their Cinematic Arts Commission, the division of the student programming board that brings movies to campus, to show “Before Night Falls” in the Cosford Cinema.

The film is based on the true story of a Cuban author who faced much legal trouble for being gay in Cuba before moving to New York City, giving a unique glimpse into a complex Cuban immigration story.

After a location change due to inclement weather, FEC finished out the Week of Cuban Culture with their Closing Ceremonies in the Shalala Ballrooms, where they served more Cuban food as well as cotton candy.

Salsa band “Luna Y Sus Rumberos” performed at the ceremony and Camp Kesem, an organization that raises money for and hosts a summer camp for children affected by a parent’s cancer, also took part in the event with a service initiative.

In terms of the week’s importance to FEC and the greater Miami community, Xenes notes that it is impossible to ignore the Cuban influence in the 305, making UM the perfect place to educate others about the country’s complex history and culture.

“Coming to UM and joining FEC, I was quickly surrounded by people that thought being Cuban wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, and should be celebrated instead,” said Xenes. “Being in FEC has further fostered my appreciation for the culture and my identity, as I’ve been able to celebrate it alongside my peers, who may not all share the same roots but share the same love for Cuba and its many traditions and customs.”

Follow FEC at @fecyeah on Instagram or visit their office (210F) in the Shalala Student Center to learn about FEC and their events.