The Binghamton University Latin American Student Union (LASU) commemorated its 54th anniversary with “Planeta de Amor,” a banquet filled with Latin music, food and the shared celebration of community and culture.

On Nov. 4 at 6 p.m., LASU opened its banquet doors at American Legion Post 1645 in Binghamton. Pink balloons and gold and white tablecloths adorned the venue, transforming the space to fit LASU’s “Planeta de Amor” theme. Translated as “planet of love,” the theme featured homemade centerpieces designed by LASU’s E-Board and tables for attending students and campus organizations.

The evening commenced with opening remarks from the hosts and an awards ceremony recognizing impactful students and organizations, such as the “Pushing Us Forward” award and the “Fraternity/Sorority in Action” award. While attendees enjoyed their selection of food options such as griot, jerk chicken and fried plantains, BU’s Quimbamba Latin Dance Team took to the floor with their synchronized and high-energy performances.

Melanie Ibagón, senior advisor of LASU and a senior double-majoring in music and linguistics, described the significance of LASU Banquet — one of LASU’s largest-scale events according to Ibagón.

“LASU banquet is important because it’s meant to serve the entire community and celebrate them and us for being here on campus for 54 years,” Ibagón wrote in an email. “It’s a chance to give back to the Latine community with our food, music and dance and recognizing other organizations and people on campus for all their accomplishments and work.”

The event drew a large student turnout, with tickets selling out on Nov. 1. Participating organizations included the Dominican Student Association, SHADES and the Black Student Union, among others. Banquet attendees were also invited to participate in love-themed activities throughout the night, such as a couples dance contest and “how well do you know each other” game for couples and best friends.

Elissa Morales, senior advisor of LASU and a senior majoring in human development, expressed her wishes for the students attending the event.

“I hope attendees will gain a ‘home away from home’ experience as they will get to enjoy a plate of Latin cuisine and live Latin music performances,” Morales wrote. “I also hope they come from this event inspired [to] give back to their community and take a stand for what they believe in.”

During the banquet, the LASU E-Board took the time to recognize the recent hardship for the Binghamton community. Three moments of silence were held at the banquet — for the loss of lives in Palestine, the Erik M. Colon award and for Natalia Malcevic, respectively.

The keynote speaker of the night was Maribel Tineo, visiting assistant professor in the College of Community and Public Affairs. Through two seemingly unrelated but thematically connected anecdotes from her life, Tineo emphasized the importance of understanding people beyond preconceived notions.

Tineo also aimed to draw attention to the socioeconomic inequalities in America, including the housing crisis and student debt crisis. She emphasized the importance of social change and confronting structural injustice.

“In the middle of two very distinct Americas, mass atrocities around the world and unprecedented inequality, freedom of speech is increasingly under attack, necessary debates suppressed and individuals punished for exercising moral leadership and defiance,” Tineo said during her speech. “And you are the hope. Inevitably, you will have to make choices around how to confront the pressing needs the world presents us with.”

Tineo’s speech was followed by a performance from BU’s student band From the Bronx — 2023 winner of Battle of the Bands. The band performed two original rock songs, drawing applause from the audience for their vocals, bass, drumming and electric guitar.

Toward the end of the night, the LASU E-Board walked onto the floor one by one with shoutouts for each member. Dressed in pale pink, the E-Board received applause and support from the attendees for their work.

Eric Ceballos, events coordinator of LASU and a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, spoke about the E-Board’s commitment to setting up a successful banquet.

“We [worked] very, very hard to create all these centerpieces, the balloon art,” Ceballos said. “All this hard work that we put into obtaining this venue and everything — I’m so proud of the hard work that we’ve come to do and how it all turned out.”

With students on the dance floor and taking photos under the balloon arch, the banquet closed out with Latin music from El Rey Tulile.

Allesandra Stratigakis, vice president of the Binghamton Association of Mixed Students (BAMS) and a junior majoring in biochemistry, attended the banquet as part of BAMS. Stratigakis discussed her impression of the event overall.

“LASU always shows out, and they always do different themes every year, so it’s always a surprise to see what they’re going to do,” Stratigakis said. “I love the E-Board and the members, so no matter what I have a good time.”

Ibagón elaborated on the importance of LASU and the banquet to their own life.

“[LASU] has been my familia and community for so long, and I know they will always be there for me,” Ibagón wrote. “We’ve worked so hard to keep our organization going, and it’s an accomplishment to be here at this campus for 54 years.”