CARBONDALE - When he goes to the stage this spring to receive his undergraduate degree in marketing, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student Julio Barrenzuela has made arrangements to be announced as "The Salsa Ambassador."

And many in the audience will know exactly who he is, because Barrenzuela has done a unique job of marketing himself and salsa dancing throughout Southern Illinois during his five years in Carbondale.

"I do a lot of salsa dancing. I have the potential to do something with salsa. I want to take it to the next level," said Barrenzuela, who was born in Lima, Peru, grew up and graduated from high school in Springfield and served with the U.S. Navy before arriving in Carbondale in 2003.

He was a major player in bringing an interactive performance ESPN World Salsa Championship to the SIUC Student Center last month.

Barrenzuela has given demonstrations of salsa dancing throughout the region by engaging groups ranging from elementary school children to nursing home residents.

A poster advertising his salsa dancing aerobics can be found in the SIUC Recreation Center.

He has approached business, civic and university leaders with ideas and requests to give salsa demonstrations and hold other organized events to promote it.

His motivating factor to promote dance is to break racial stereotypes regarding Latin American cultures.

"Race relations shouldn't be an attitude of, 'Hey, you've got to tolerate me.' With salsa dancing, it's entertainment. You're initiating the culture of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and Colombia. It feels good to go to small towns and bring the culture of Latin America to them. You can expand people's worlds," Barrenzuela said.

When he visits high schools or gives demonstrations to elementary school children, Barrenzuela said he always includes messages for them to do the right thing, like stay in school, for example.

"I'm trying to give them (younger students) some kind of wisdom. At a young age, they have the freedom to say, 'When I grow up, I want to be ?,'" Barrenzuela said.

Many have noticed Barrenzuela's can-do attitude.

At the recent SIUC Foreign Language Day, which includes cultural events to promote learning foreign languages, Thomas Thibeault, director of the College of Liberal Arts New Media Center and an associate professor of German, said Barrenzuela's salsa dancing definitely was one of the more popular demonstrations.

"Julio has always been one of the main attractions when we have this day. He throws a lot of positive messages out during his performing," Thibeault said

Barrenzuela wants to continue his salsa dancing demonstrations and positive messages after he graduates. He would to like to find a sponsor and promoter.

"I tell myself that you've got to use your marketing degree and skills you are learning to follow your dreams," he said.

scott.fitzgerald@thesouthern.com / 351-5076

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