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School marks Hispanic Heritage Month
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Performers flow through a cumbia-style dance from Colombia on Thursday at Liberty Elementary Schools fourth Hispanic Heritage Program. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

Liberty Elementary School students Thursday took a voyage through Mexican, Colombian, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Dominican cultures without ever leaving their cafeteria.
Performers from the Hispanic Heritage Club of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield captivated students with traditional dance performances for the school’s fourth-annual Hispanic Heritage Program.
“We want the students to learn the Spanish language because we know in the future they will have better opportunities for better jobs,” said paraprofessional Yazmin Gonzales, a native Puerto Rican, who coordinated the event. “We want to empower the kids of Liberty Elementary School to learn the Spanish and learn the history of different Hispanic cultures.”
“I want to show them our culture, show them what we were doing a long time ago in my country,” Hispanic Heritage Club director Pablo Rodriguez said.
Though Rodriguez is Puerto Rican, he performed the Mexican dance “Jarabe tapatio,” or “the Mexican hat dance” because the club’s mission is to educate people about the diversity within Hispanic cultures.  
Other numbers included a cumbia-style dance from Colombia; the Puerto Rican seis dance; and the bachata, which originated in the Dominican Republic.
Drummers performed the final number, a Puerto Rican bomba, which draws influence from the island’s Spanish, African and Taino cultures. A dancer decked out in white and draped in a Puerto Rican flag worked her way through the crowd before pulling a student onstage to dance with her.
The dancers offer two performances, one geared toward younger students and another to the older crowd.
Older students were treated to the Venezuelan dance “Tambores.”
Dancer Valerie Sanchez, who hails from Colombia but participated in the Venezuelan dance, said she enjoys dancing because it is expressive and keeps her in touch with her heritage.
“Boys and girls, I want you to make sure that you look at the different dress, the uniforms, the dance, the rhythm, the beats,” Principal Chris Anderson said. “And you can see that this is a culture that we will embrace on a daily basis at our school — I want to make sure that you understand that we’re all different, but that makes us great.”

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