International dinner spotlights diversity: ¡ Viva Mexico! draws in students, faculty, community

Butler University’s 21st Annual International Dinner brought students, faculty and community members to the Reilly Room on Saturday. Each year, the dinner features a different part of the world, and this year’s theme was ¡Viva Mexico!

The event is organized by the International Club Executive Board and was sponsored by Student Government Association and REACH. The event included food, music, games and prizes, as well as a guest speaker—2010 Butler graduate Josie Villanueva.

The Reilly Room was adorned with flags from around the world, and each table was decorated with sombreros filled with Mexican candy and sweets.

International Club President, senior psychology major Brooke Moreland, said the club chose Mexico because of its relevance in American society.

“We recognize that there is a growing population of Mexican Americans in the community,” Moreland said. “The culture of Mexico is all around us in America.”

International Club Treasurer junior Allie Gardner said recent immigration legislation in Indiana makes Mexico a very current topic.

“Mexico has strong ties to the Indiana community right now,” Gardner, a political science and international studies major, said.

Because of officer changes, new officers were not able to begin planning the dinner until January.

“Normally, we would have started planning last semester,” Gardner said.

After an introduction by the International Club Executive Board, guests were served traditional Mexican dishes such as quesadillas, chiles rellenos, Spanish rice and sweet tortilla roll ups.

A mariachi band entertained the guests with Mexican music and took requests from the crowd.

The dinner also included a fundraising component, with all donations going to Project Medishare for Haiti.

The organization is a nonprofit working to bring sustainability and health care to Haitian communities.

Moreland said International Club decided to partner with Project Medishare because the organization had previously worked with Butler.

“We wanted to continue helping after the earthquake, and the familiarity of the organization was why we chose it,” Moreland said.

The night’s keynote speaker, Villanueva, is a first-generation Mexican American.

After graduating from Butler, she went on to work as a Public Policy Fellow for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C.

Villanueva’s speech focused on what it means to be a Mexican American and her own experience growing up with undocumented parents.

“My perspective of what it means to be Hispanic in the United States is one that has been as difficult as it has been empowering and wonderful,” Villanueva said. “I have had many burdens, biases against my people and culture and financial and oppressive challenges.

“It has also been incredibly empowering precisely for the love and generosity that the Mexican culture embraces.”

She said education was the key to achieving the “American Dream” that so many Mexican immigrants strive for.

“This university taught me to maneuver through a world very different than my own,” Villanueva said.

Moreland said she thought Villanuvea was an appropriate speaker.

“I felt that Josie was the perfect representative of Mexican American culture because of her story,” she said.