After three months of non-stop socializing in the name of charity, it would be understandable that some party energy was lagging—initially—on Thursday night when El Museo del Barrio threw its annual spring gala. As one well-photographed lady entered the cathedral-like Cipriani 42nd Street space, she posed momentarily for the roving photographers before making her way to the small step-and-repeat-cum-red carpet in the room’s Western corner.

“Where are you going?” asked Patrick McMullan, hoping for more shots.

“I PROMISE I’ll come back,” she said, undeterred from her path.

“Just remember, you’ll meet the same people on the way down as you’ll meet on the way up,” quipped McMullan, before turning his attention to others.

He was joking—I think—but that was as catty as things got. Because not to pull out any stereotypes, but how could one stay in a snappy mood when surrounded by such fun-loving Latin spirit? There were bellinis and tequila everywhere you looked (and rum cocktails—Bacardi USA was one of the night’s honorees) and enough women in red dresses to paint many a town in scarlet hues.

“We Latins like bright colors,” said Carolina Herrera.

A makeshift VIP room slash holding pen was set up overlooking cocktails in the Eastern bar—Carlos Mota, for one, loved it exclaiming, “I want to be where all the young people are!”—but most seemed content to imbibe in the packed fray. In place of the normal announcement for dinner came three sets of trumpet calls that had one girl wondering, “Are the Hunger Games about to start?”

Not quite. Unless gazpacho with shrimp, prime roast and huge slices of meringue cake with strawberries constitute a famine.

As guests like Angel Sanchez, Fe Fendi, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Cindy Sherman and Charlotte Moss dug in, Tony Bechara, the museum’s chair, introduced the evening’s presenters and honorees.

First up was Julianna Margulies, endowing Narciso Rodriguez with the Excellence in the Arts Award (he’s the first fashion designer to receive it).

“He loves his heritage and he really loves women,” said Margulies, showing off one of Rodriguez’s designs. “I’ve known him for 18 years. When I was on ER, I would call Narciso up and say ‘I need a dress for an awards show… I’m thinking red.’ And I would get a dress in a FedEx envelope and I would be like, ‘This is never going to fit me!’ And it never needed an alteration.”

A very moved Rodriguez thanked the Latin American women in his life saying, “It means a great deal to me because El Museo celebrates my most profound influences, the cultures that made me who I am today.”

After Facundo Bacardi, the chairman of Bacardi Limited, picked up the Corporate Excellence in the Arts Award, Mrs. Herrera introduced “the beautiful and glamorous” Yaz Hernandez, recipient of the Trustee Leadership Award.

“Tonight is my lucky night because I have the woman who is the icon of my life presenting me with an award,” said Hernandez, adding, “It’s my lucky night, but it’s also your lucky night because I forgot my speech at home, so since I don’t remember what I’m supposed to say, it’s going to be a real short one! Humble is not for me, but gratitude, yes. I am really grateful. That’s it, 35 minutes, now enjoy your night.”

And so they did, some in the most unexpected of ways. As dessert wrapped up and many hit the dance floor, designer Bibhu Mohapatra was getting ready to leave. His date, Mackenzie Hamilton, had other things on her mind.

“I’m just waiting for my model to finish her cake,” said Mohapatra, eyeing her.

Yup, no hunger games here.

Photos: Sherly Rabbani & Josephine Solimene