Celebrating Hispanic heritage with dance, art

HARLINGEN — The poignant voice flew across the courtyard intertwined with the enchanting flute lines and rich guitar.

“It touches the soul,” said Alfonso Guillen, who represented the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Genealogy Society yesterday at the Harlingen Public Library.

He was in the library’s courtyard where Grupo “Americanto” performed powerful music from throughout Latin America. The performance was part of the library’s third annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration.

“It’s really a nice turnout, really beautiful,” said Eva Bielicke, adult programs coordinator for the library.

“I think we had a big turnout,” she said. “We had two dance groups, last year we had only one.”

One of those groups, the Company Ensemble from the Dance Community Center, performed several dazzling “Chiapanecas” in their colorful dresses from the Mexican state of Chiapas.

They whirled around in gleeful ardor to cheerful percussion as adoring crowds watched in the library’s auditorium.

“It’s very nice,” said Kerri Valencia, 34. “We go to all of their performances and this is probably our favorite. It’s so colorful and the music is really nice.”

Bielicke had numerous events planned for the afternoon. A clown was scheduled to entertain the kids, and other activities included a children’s crafts time, face painting and a cakewalk.

“We’re going to have a piñata in the courtyard,” she said.

Back in the courtyard, Julianne Castillo, 10, was all smiles after performing with the Dance Community Center.

“I like being with my friends and showing off,” she said with a laugh.

The director and owner of the Center, Nora Estrada, was proud of the nine girls who performed.

“These were some easier dances,” she said, adding they didn’t include the fast footwork of the more complicated dances.

“These are more lyrical,” she said.

She appreciated the opportunity to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It’s so important especially because we are in an area that is filled with culture all around us,” Estrada said. “People from Mexico make this their home.”

Mexico and the rest of Latin America had a place here, with participants wearing the names of such countries as Bolivia and El Salvador. They all had something to celebrate.