Events highlight Hispanic cultures

ROCHESTER — Carmelo Ramos blew a conch shell as the tropical sounds of Puerto Rico’s coqui — the island’s native tiny frog — played in the background.

As Ramos walked up the aisle of the Memorial Art Gallery auditorium wearing a long scarlet robe, he opened the presentation highlighting the history and cultural contributions of the island of enchantment.

The Oct. 2 presentation was part of the gallery’s annual Hispanic/Latino Heritage Family Day, which attracted about 1,300 people. The daylong event included cultural displays, storytelling, dance workshops, and folkloric dances representing Mexican and Panamanian cultures.

The Puerto Rico spotlight featured dances from Borinquen Dance Theatre and music by Los Tres Arpegios, guitarist George Díaz Muñiz, percussionist Ramon "Sunshine" Perez and singer Raquel Serrano, chairwoman of the city’s Hispanic Heritage Month planning committee. Henry Padrón, a teacher with School No. 12’s dual-language program, also recited a poem.

Before dancers came out for the folkloric dance of plena, Javier Rivera, the program narrator, explained how musicians would include neighborhood gossip in songs.

"Plena is the newspaper but in music," he noted.

The event was one of several events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The city’s ceremony Sept. 16 to open the monthlong celebration coincided with Mexico’s independence day and included music sung by Byron Nobles and dances performed by Arco Iris Mexicano.

Hispanic Heritage Month is "a time to reflect … and strengthen our commitment to faith, family, community and work," Councilwoman Jackie Ortiz noted during the ceremony at City Hall.

Another city-sponsored event honored the elders of the Latino community on Sept. 28 at Los Flamboyanes apartments on North Clinton Avenue. Serrano said that Pedro Nuñez, a parishioner of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish who helped start Spanish-language Masses at the former Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, received a city proclamation in his honor.

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