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Hispanic Heritage Month: A celebration of heritage and culture

Boston, Massachusetts

In 2014, Berklee College of Music formally launched Berklee Latino to elevate the education, awareness and appreciation of Latin music and its cultural impact on the world. Internationally renowned musicians travel from all over the world to Boston to perform with a carefully curated group of musicians from the school. It's part of the college's Latino program, led by four-time Grammy winner Oscar Stagnaro.

"When I moved to Boston -- this is funny -- the first gig, I was playing country western music," Stagnaro said.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

There's no shortage of ethnic food options in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but Edgar Alvarez says that wasn't the case when he first came here. Alvarez brought something to Pittsburgh that he said was missing: authentic Mexican food. Now he has the best tacos in the city — but his journey is about more than just food. When Alvarez cooks tacos, he's pouring his heart and soul into every meal.

"You have to put a lot of love in what you are doing," he said. "If you don't do your stuff with love, it's not going to work."

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hispanic Heritage comes in many forms. Activist Dolores Huerta says it goes back generations in New Mexico. She spent more than 50 years organizing peaceful demonstrations in the U.S. Huerta advocated for farmworkers, immigrants and women in the United States. The outcomes were not always peaceful.

"I was badly battered. I had my ribs broken, pulverized my spleen, and I almost died for doing a peaceful protest," Huerta said.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Laura Morillo, a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, resident who fled communist Cuba as a teenager and worked tirelessly and persistently to bring her mother and two sisters to the United States as a young woman, is sharing her family's story of immigration.

“When I was at the airport, and I was leaving, a lady there said, ‘Don’t cry. You’re leaving because you want to. You’re leaving your mom because you want to do it,’” Morillo said.

Kansas City, Missouri

One Kansas City community leader mobilized Latinos to vote and run for office. Paul Rojas was also the first Latino elected to state office in Missouri. His last name, Rojas, is proudly displayed around his home on Kansas City's westside. But his first name was given to him in school.

"My real name is Raul. I guess the nuns took the little foot off the R and made it Paul, a P, but that was not uncommon," Rojas said.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

For more than 30 years, this dance studio has been teaching students of all ages the culture of Mexican Ballet Folklórico dance. The sound of music and heels clicking is a small part of what goes into traditional Mexican Ballet Folklórico.

Director at Baila Baila! Dance Company Israela Garcia said, “A lot of these students find something that they really love and they, it's a connection that they don't expect to have. And once they have it it's just natural.”

Sacramento, California

Mariachi Bonitas isn't your typical mariachi band. Dinorah Klingler has been singing her heart out since she was just a kid in Mexico City.

"Music is the universal language," Klingler said. "Music brings you peace, brings you harmony in your life. That is my belief."

New Orleans, Louisiana

As the president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, Mayra Pineda has worked tirelessly to build a favorable business environment for Hispanic owners throughout the state.

"It's been wonderful to see the community grow, but as you know the Hispanic culture and Heritage is very deeply engrained in Louisiana. From the founding times, you know just recently we celebrated a tricentennial and you saw the King and Queen of Spain visit Louisiana for that reason," Pineda said.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania senior center is in a unique position to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because it was organized partly to do just that – preserve the culture of its participants.

"We're giving them a place where they feel comfortable. They trust us. They can speak their language freely. They feel at home," Gloria Merrick said.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is rich with Native American, Mexican and Spanish culture. A big part of the culture is the language. Throughout New Mexico's history, speaking Spanish was frowned upon. Now it's embraced through dual language education.

"It is what we as a school system can offer our students in a rigorous way the opportunity to regain part of their history," said Antonio Gonzales, assistant superintendent and former dual language teacher, "Because maybe their history to get away from them."

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