Events celebrate Hispanic heritage

ROCHESTER — Flamenco guitar and dance, a dance-a-thon and a presentation by a South American artist are just some of the highlights slated during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.

The city’s Hispanic Heritage Committee kicked things off with an opening ceremony on Sept. 15 at City Hall with the annual unfurling of the flags representing Latin America’s Spanish-speaking countries, said Johanna Santiago, the committee chairwoman.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs nationally from Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

Santiago added that this year’s theme for the city events is "Orgullo Latino: Empowering Latinos and Strengthening Our Communities."

"We’re trying to have more of a unity," Santiago said. "The Latinos in our community are separated, segregated. We want them to come in as one and include them as much as we can in the activities that we do."

To help with that outreach, committee members will utilize social media more as well as make visits to senior centers and schools to pass out information and invite people to take part in celebrating Hispanic heritage, Santiago added.

Other city-sponsored events will include a college fair, an "Honoring Our Abuelitos (Grandparents)" evening, a "Noche de Gala" and the debut of a Anti-Domestic Violence dance-a-thon, Santiago said. During the gala, winners of the Latino of Positive Influence Awards will be announced, she said.

At the city’s kickoff event, Yunaivys Pumarejo, 8, from the Avenue D Afro-Latino Dance Group, was to be recognized with a certificate from Mayor Lovely Warren. The group is an offshoot of the Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester, said Evelyn Cassano, who runs the dance group with Cynthia Rochet from the Avenue D Recreation Center and Sacha Rios from Ibero-American Development Corp.

The dance group also will display vejigante masks — a tradition from Puerto Rico — that members made this past spring.

Also during Hispanic Heritage Month, the Memorial Art Gallery will present its 11th-annual "Hispanic/Latino Family Day: Celebrating a Rich Heritage," which will be held Oct. 5.

Several groups will perform at the gallery during the daylong activities, including Latinos de Corazón, Borinquen Dance Theatre and the Rochester Latino Theatre Company, which will perform "America" from "West Side Story." And with the help of a translator, Bolivian artist Roberto Mamani Mamani will talk about his paintings, which portray his indigenous Aymara roots, said Debora McDell-Hernández, the museum’s coordinator of community programs and outreach.

Several years ago the gallery began highlighting a different country during Hispanic Heritage Month, she added, and this year the spotlight is on Spain.

The presentations about Spain on Oct. 5 will include flamenco guitar from David Tamarin, a retired SUNY Geneseo professor, and flamenco dance by Lisa Piccione, an instructor at the Hochstein School of Music & Dance, said Pakita Vicente, a native of Spain who also is a member of the gallery’s event planning committee. John Weisenthal, also a Hochstein guitar teacher, also will perform music from a Spanish composer with a group of students, she added.

Additionally, she found other Spanish natives to recite poems in Catalan, Gallego and Euskera to represent the various regions of Spain and its diversity of languages, Vicente explained.

Vicente added that she is proud to have helped plan this year’s event.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for the Hispanic community to get to know each other better personally as well as the cultures within in," she said in an e-mail. "We speak the same language, we share part of each other’s cultures but many times we don’t know important aspects of other countries. And this event allows us inform and educate each other."

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