‘Las Magnificas’ Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month


Daniel Baker, Staff Writer

National Hispanic Heritage Month starts on Sept. 15 every year to honor the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Since its creation in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the movement has grown and gained popularity not only within the Hispanic/Latino community, but is now also celebrated by allies and advocates across ethnic boundaries.

Today, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the achievements of those in the Hispanic and Latin communities who have worked hard to share their gifts, ideas and wisdom with others. It is a time to honor the contributions of those notable members. It is also a time to reflect upon and respect the hardships that Hispanic Americans surmounted to reach their goals against all odds.

Gannon University celebrates a diversity of cultures, especially from Latin America. Students are openly invited to engage with the International Hispanic Association, which educates and celebrates the unique cultures that exist in each country.

As a part of this year’s CHESS Speaker Series, titled “Reinventing Right Now,” The School of Public Service and Global Affairs invited the CORE Ensemble to perform “Las Magnificas” – translated: the magnificent ones – Monday at the Schuster Theater. The event was free for students and faculty to attend.

“Las Magnificas” is an intercultural piece that illustrates small snapshots of the lives of key Latina female artists Chavela Vargas, Celia Cruz and Violeta Parra.

“Las Magnificas” thrives on an intimate experience with the audience. The cast consisted of a sole actor and piano accompaniment, which work together seamlessly to convey emotions and story through word and song. Nadya Encarnacion, the lead actor, conveyed the hardships that each artist went through not only during their adult life in their careers, but also in their childhoods and personal lives.

In between scenes, Encarnacion transformed into a new character with unique struggles and conflicts that other people can relate to, such as fighting traditional roles, substance abuse and loss of family. Each character speaks on the heartbreak that created beautiful music, and the passion that was born out of pain and sadness.

The impact of music on culture, especially in Latin America, is undeniable. In an incredibly moving musical display, Encarnacion educates the audience on the gifts and curses of being a woman in a man’s world, especially in Latin America.

Claudia Herrero, a senior public service and global affairs major, said that she enjoyed the whole performance.

“I think Nadya is very talented and is skilled at portraying the personalities of artists perfectly,” she said. “I felt a connection to her performance because many of the songs she sang are songs that I heard during my childhood.”

In an academic context, the passion written into the poetry of the lyrics resonates across social and geopolitical boundaries. Through common hardships, Latin music can unify multiple communities under a common experience, feeling or emotion. It can unify, protest and call out to those who otherwise may not feel heard or understood.

The accompaniment is just as essential to the performance as the actor herself, and the piano player showed his adaptability and skill throughout the performance. All the pieces played reflect major moments in the character’s life, often in rapid succession. Each piece is an arrangement of a song that was a major hit of the particular artist, or it was a piece of music that had a major influence on the way that the characters expressed themselves in their music. In between scenes, complex interludes filled the space with jarring melodies and harmonies influenced by the various important artists in Latin American culture.

The School of Public Service and Global Affairs offered a brilliant opening to National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the accomplishments of three major figures in Latin American music. These artists redrew boundaries, changed perspectives and gave hope to individuals in the Latin American community to persevere, work hard and dream of a brighter future.

Throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month, the International Hispanic Association will be facilitating more opportunities to celebrate the culture and accomplishments through interactive events and activities for the Gannon community.