Celebrating a Time for Reflection
Bundled up against the cold, scores of USC students, parents and staff joined members of the surrounding community on Dec. 4 for El Centro Chicano’s 11th annual La Posada. The event symbolizes Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to give birth to their son Jesus.
The evening began in the United University Church with a lecture by sociology professor Veronica Terriquez on personal responsibility, poverty and immigration.
“The holidays are a time to reflect,” she told the crowd. “I challenge you to think about the privilege of being part of USC and the power that grants us to enact change in our community.”
USC alumnus Fatima Djelmane ’01 gave a presentation about Proyecto Pastoral, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowerment, education and service in Boyle Heights. This year, El Centro Chicano sponsored a toy drive for Proyecto Pastoral as part of La Posada.
Susan Stouffer, director of the Peace Center at USC, suggested another way of giving back when she encouraged students to volunteer to teach youngsters from USC’s Family of Schools about “peace heroes.”
In addition, sophomores Karina Casillas and Francisco Luna shared stories about their family holiday traditions. “One of the things we’re trying to express is that we come in all shapes, sizes and forms, and so everybody has a different way of celebrating La Posada,” said Billy Vela, director of El Centro Chicano.
After the presentations, participants stepped outside to receive electric candles for the traditional La Posada procession.
Led by a costumed Mary and Joseph (portrayed by freshmen Rosa Delgado and Salvador Vieyra) and a mariachi band, the crowd made three symbolic stops around campus.
At the first two, the crowd sang requests for rest and food, only to be refused by students playing the roles of inhospitable innkeepers. The last stop ended the procession in a celebratory welcome party behind Heritage Hall, where participants enjoyed a sweet bread called pan dulce and a chocolate drink known as champurrado.
“La Posada is really fun,” said sophomore Estefany Zendejas, who has participated in the tradition while visiting Mexico with her family. “I get to meet new people, and I just love the atmosphere. The songs are really familiar to me, and they mean a lot. It reminds me of my childhood.”
But the real significance of USC’s La Posada goes beyond good food, traditional songs or even new friends.
“We collected four big bags full of toys for Proyecto Pastoral,” Vela said. “I’m sure the kids are going to be very excited. La Posada is definitely a time to give.”