If “Lloraras” by Oscar D’León is playing, you can bet Santiago Gutierrez is somewhere dancing.
At a party, at Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria or at La Casita, Gutierrez’s charisma is expressed through merengue, bachata, cumbia and salsa.
Music has been an ingredient in Gutierrez’s life since high school when he played percussion in the concert and marching bands. He conducted part of the halftime show as one of the drum majors his senior year.
The chaos of music has taught the 20-year-old UF international studies and economics junior to find balance in his leadership.
“No matter how stressful, no matter how chaotic, you have to stay calm,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez has struck a balance in his roles as the treasurer of the Hispanic Student Association, and later, as the chief of staff. The Hispanic Student Association manages a budget of $120,000.
Brenda Villanueva, UF Hispanic Student Association president, knew Gutierrez was going places when she first met him in a philosophy class his freshman year. She said he was instrumental in arranging for Pitbull’s recent performance on campus and revising the Hispanic Student Association bylaws.
But the work Gutierrez completes isn’t self-serving, the 20-year-old UF marketing and economics senior said.
“At the end of the day, he’s doing everything that he’s doing for his family,” Villanueva said.
Gutierrez’s parents emigrated from Colombia before he was born. He wears a yellow, blue and red cord bracelet on his left arm every day to remind him of his heritage.
Per tradition, the bracelet will not leave Gutierrez’s arm until it falls off. The bracelet also inspires him to infuse more traditions into the UF experience.
“I think with all this talk of becoming a big top five school, we’re losing a little bit of our identity as Gators,” Gutierrez said. “Traditions are very important in affirming that love for the school.”
Isabella Oliver, the vice president of operations for the UF Hispanic Student Association said Gutierrez has helped her professionally and personally.
Last semester, Gutierrez accompanied Oliver to the Southwest Recreation Center where they completed workouts Oliver created from Instagram. On the mats, Gutierrez challenged and motivated Oliver with positivity.
“I associated that time with him with a time of self care,” the 21-year-old UF political science and international studies junior said.
On and off the dance floor, Santiago Gutierrez wants to move himself and UF forward.
“Calm down. Don’t freak out. Just feel the rhythm,” Gutierrez said.