Special events to showcase Latino heritage

Hispanic Heritage Month, now in its 30th year nationally, will be celebrated with a variety of local events that will be held throughout September and October.

Rochester city officials kicked off the month with a Sept. 16 ceremony at City Hall proclaiming Sept. 15-Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage month. The ceremony included unfurling of flags from Latin America’s 26 countries, music and Latin American cuisine.

All of the city’s events will reflect the national theme for Hispanic Heritage Month, "Latino Pride: Building America’s Future Today," said Melisa Vega, chairwoman of the heritage month planning committee.

That theme reflected the committee’s goal to involve Latino students in its Hispanic Heritage events, she said, including having city students unfurl the flags during the opening ceremony, hosting a Latino Youth Talent Expo, and expanding the Latino college fair and moving it to the Blue Cross Area.

"Especially with everything that’s going on in our city with our youth and the (low) graduation rates, we felt it was important … to get them more involved in all of this," Vega said.

The city also plans to present students with the Dr. Emeterio Otero award during the closing gala to be held Oct. 25 at the Harro East Ballroom, Vega said. The award is given to students who are performing well academically as well as serving as role models to others, she explained. The students will be among several honorees at the gala, which also will include recognition for Latino community leaders and city employees, Vega said.

Nominations for another award, the Latino of Positive Influence (LOPI), are still being accepted, she added.

In addition to the city activities, other organizations are hosting special events in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month including a Zumba evening at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, and a Mass and party at Rochester’s Holy Apostles Church. A full listing of events will be available at http://elmensajerorochester.com.

The Memorial Art Gallery will again host the Hispanic/Latino Heritage Family Day on Oct. 27. This year’s theme for the 10th-annual event is "Embracing and Encouraging Creativity — al Estilo Latino!" said Debora McDell-Hernández, the museum’s coordinator of community programs and outreach.

Working with that theme, the planning committee is excited to present a talk by Ricardo Arnaiz, a Mexican film director and producer who specializes in animation, she said. Arnaiz will show an edited screening of his film, "La Leyenda de la Nahuala," which is set in 1807 and is about the Day of the Dead, said McDell-Hernández.

Arnaiz, who founded the film company ANIMEX, has recently been working with Edward James Olmos on the animated film "El Americano: the Movie." The film, which also will feature the voice of "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow, will be released nationwide in January and is the first coproduction between the United States and Mexico, according to www.awn.com/news/films/olmos-and-animex-join-forces-el-americano-movie.

"This is an opportunity for him to encourage creativity. And really, there aren’t that many Latinos producers in the animated film world," said McDell-Hernández. "We’re excited to have a big film person here. … since this is also our 10th year. We love our local artists too, and we support the community. But it’s nice to change it up a little bit."

Family Day also will include hands-on activities for children, music and dance performances but will be held later than usual because of the gallery’s centennial celebration in October, said McDell-Hernández. The country spotlight will be on Chile.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on nominations for the Latino of Positive Influence Award, call Melisa Vega at 585-230-3834.

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