Eliana Perez, president of Fuego del Corazón, said she remembers her home of Queens, N.Y. as being the most culturally diverse place she’s ever known. When Perez came to Boston College in 2020, she said she longed for an environment where she could find herself surrounded by a variety of cultures again.
“Coming to BC was a little bit like a culture shock for me, like coming to a [predominantly white institution],” Perez, MCAS ’24, said. “So I wanted to find a way to feel connected and kind of feel at home while at BC.”
Fuego del Corazón, a Latin dance group at BC, is one of the most acclaimed dance teams on campus, having won third place at last year’s ALC Showdown and second place at Showdown in 2022. According to the group’s description on BC’s student organization website, Fuego aims to promote the awareness of Latin culture both on campus and in the greater Boston area through dance.
Perez said that her experience on Fuego, which currently has 25 members, provided her with a sense of belonging at BC.
“I feel like it’s been able to give me a home away from home,” Perez said.
Perez said within a year of joining the Latin dance team her dancing skills “improved an insane amount.”
“I can’t even look at my audition video,” Perez joked. “I feel like that honestly goes for anyone on the team. I feel like the style that we have kind of is drilled into everyone within like a semester, and then within a year like everyone’s improvement is so noticeable.”
Similarly, when Sebastian Gonzales-Flores, LSEHD ’26, came to BC as a freshman, he didn’t have any previous experience dancing except at quinceañera parties growing up. He said he didn’t even know about the existence of Fuego at BC, nevertheless about tryouts for the team.
“It’s a funny story,” Gonzales-Flores said about how he came to join Fuego. “My mom came here to drop me off for orientation week and help me move in when someone—out of nowhere—came up to her and was like, ‘Is your son Hispanic? You need to tell him he needs to try for Fuego. He’s gonna have a blast on that team.’”
Gonzales-Flores said his mom told him about the conversation and he decided to try out.
Even though Gonzales-Flores said he had fun at tryouts, he wasn’t expecting to make the team. Still, he said he knew that if he didn’t make the team, he wanted to join a club that would connect him to his Hispanic heritage.
“Mexican identity is a huge part of me and I knew I definitely wanted to cultivate that here you know, and not let go of it,” he said.
He said he was surprised when the team got back to him, welcoming him to Fuego.
Sofania Guerra, LSEHD ’25, said she has participated in dance teams since elementary school, but Latin dance was something she had never tried before.
“I’ve never done [Latin dance] before,” Guerra, who was raised in Eagle Pass, Texas—a small town bordering the United States and Mexico—said. “But I just wanted to do it just because like, while I was going to be so far away from home and my culture back home was like super Hispanic and here is not, I wanted to still feel connected to Hispanic culture while I was here.”
Guerra is one of the five captains of Fuego, alongside Perez, whose role in Fuego—apart from attending mandatory group rehearsals three times a week—is to choreograph for the year with her fellow captains, choose costumes for performances, plan rehearsals, and interact with clubs on campus and organizations outside of campus, too.
Even though Gonzales-Flores doesn’t have an official title in the team apart from being a member, he said he believes that everyone plays a special role in Fuego.
“I know I can reach out to anyone at any point of the day and they will be there for me,” Gonzales-Flores said. “I know a lot of the other dance teams get close and all that stuff but like there’s something about the way we do practices [and] the way we have like the culture of Fuego. It’s like we work so hard, and we go through so much emotional trauma during practices, and everybody is just so special and shines in their moment. Everybody plays their unique family role.”
For Perez, Fuego is a unique dance team at BC not only because of its tight community, but also because of the genres of music used, including bachata and salsa, and the partner dancing the group incorporates into its routines.
This music is not really coming out now and this adds on to the mission of keeping the tradition alive,” Perez said. “But then we also do partner dancing as well. And like they’re only a handful of teams that do partner work and I feel like that kind of brings us together as a team. Just like with both of those combined, Latin culture and then plus having to dance with a partner is what kind of really makes us a strong family and makes us unique.”
For Guerra, the element that makes Fuego stand out is the family aspect and the mix of cultures within the group.
“I think just like the family aspect that Fuego has created in which we get along so beautifully, despite the diverse amount of cultures that are present in Fuego, whether they’re Latin or not Latin,” Guerra said.
Gonzales-Flores said that if he didn’t make it to Fuego, he would’ve missed out on a huge social network that dance provides at BC.
“I’ve met some of the dopest people in and outside of my dance team,” Gonzales-Flores said. “Those are my guys. I’ve met those people through dance and it’s just amazing that there are other people like me who have never danced or maybe they’ve been dancing for their whole life, but regardless the school rocks with it so heavy. I love that.”
Fuego will be participating in this semester’s Rookie Showcase, a show that will gather the new freshmen members of 15 dance teams for the first time on stage at BC. The event, which is happening on Oct, 27 at 6:30 p.m in the Margot Connell Recreation Center, is something that the three members said they are looking forward to at the moment, even though they won’t be participating as dancers.
“I’m very excited for the rookies [and] their first performance because that’s been kind of like the focus right now,” Gonzales-Flores said. “When I was in their position last year, people were so supportive of me, so I try to be as supportive as people were for me for their first time on stage.”