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Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage month

  • Jasmine Hurtado Crition, Xitlali Saenz, Naraly Lopez and Isabella Sanchez are part of the Ballet Folkloric Jazmin dance group who performed at the Rohnert Park Branch of the Sonoma County Library Sat. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
September 20, 2019

The Rohnert Park Library was awash with color and music this past Sat. as Ballet Folklórico Jazmin dancers performed for the community to showcase some of Mexico’s rich culture. The event was held to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, observed nationally each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. 

Santa Rosa-based Ballet Folklórico Jazmin has aimed to educate and preserve Mexico’s culture through song and dance for 12 years now. On Saturday, 22 young dancers participated, ranging in age from five to fifteen years old. They danced to songs from seven different regions in Mexico, including Vera Cruz, Guerrero, Chiapas, Los Viejitos, Sinaloa, Nayarit, and Jalisco. Each dance included costumes from that region. 

Some of the dancers practice up to four times per week. Besides educating the community at large, learning these dances also helps to keep Mexican culture alive for the dancers themselves, and their families.

“It [dancing] is teaching the kids about the culture and giving them an activity to do,” says Lisa Perez, instructor for Ballet Folklórico Jazmin who has danced herself for 34 years. “We are seeing so many negative things about Latinos on the news that once you bring out the kids you realize they’re not gang members, they’re not illegal immigrants crossing the border. These dances are what their grandparents did. It gives them something to be proud of.”

Ballet Folklórico Jazmin performs at a variety of locations throughout Northern California. They will also be performing at seven other Sonoma County library locations throughout Sept. and Oct. 

Hispanic Heritage Month first started being observed for a week in 1968 and was expanded to a month under President Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1988. It was established to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans, as well as the influence of their heritage and culture. It starts Sept. 15 because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, who all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16, 18 and 21, respectively. 

A variety of other events will take place throughout the county during Hispanic Heritage month. The annual Fiesta de Independencia took place in Santa Rosa on Sept. 15, the Latino Alliance Festival will take place Sept. 28 at the Rohnert Park City Center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the library will host a tamale making workshop for families at nine different branch locations over the next several weeks, including one in Rohnert Park Sept. 26.