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Non-profit organization promotes culture and identity through music and dance

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The audience watched in admiration as the dancers illuminated the stage with their vibrant attire and energetic dance moves, tapping and twirling across the stage.

Nuestras Raíces, a non-profit organization serving the Los Angeles South Bay, community took center stage on Saturday, Sept. 23 at Marsee Auditorium to celebrate Mexican songs and dance.

A Celebration of Mexican Music and Dance presented by Nuestras Raíces and the Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Hermanos Herrera and Mariachi Los Reyes, showcased three Mexican music and dance traditions: Son Jarocho, Son Huasteco and Mariachi music.

A Celebration of Mexican Song & Dance is meant to highlight a year of practicing and performing by the dancers. It also acts as a graduation ceremony in September when Nuestras Raíces celebrates Mexican heritage, Founder and Director of Nuestras Raíces and Spanish professor Argelia Andrade said.

“I think if you have a healthy understanding of your identity, you’re more likely to move forward,” Andrade said.

Nuestras Raíces’s mission is to educate its members and community about Mexican culture. It also encourages members to obtain a college education and to create a space where both education and the performing arts coexist, according to the El Camino College Center for the Arts pamphlet.

“We’ve created an extended family for ourselves, and for the dancers and their families,” Nasario Vásquez, dancer and performer, 28, said.

Nuestras Raíces encourages all Mexican-Americans, from children to adults, to not only embrace their culture through music, dance and education, but also look to do more than dancing and going to school by being good people.

“I think the most important thing is giving back to your community,” dancer and teacher for Nuestras Raíces Elízabeth Osuna, 24, said. “I remember looking up to the older generations, seeing them go to college, and being the teachers.”

Nuestras Raíces represents a healthy environment to learn and connect with the Mexican culture, Andrade said. Although the multifaceted organization caters to Mexican culture, she encourages all people of the community to be a part of their family.

Based out of Gardena and Torrance, Nuestras Raíces was founded in 1996. With family being so important, many of the students continue performing year after year as the organization has about a 95 percent retention rate and 5 percent new member rate, said Andrade.

“For us, identity is the genesis of anything that happens,” Andrade said.

Through song, dance and education, Nuestras Raíces shares their passions, uplifts the community and creates strong scholars to build for the future.

“I think it’s important because you have to represent where you come from, and it helps to express yourself,” dancer Ariana Orozco, a ninth grader at Leuzinger High School said.

The mental, physical and emotional support applied by Nuestras Raíces keeps the Mexican culture alive for many of the students who are a part of the organization.

“When you’re far away from your country, it brings you back to your roots which is very important for lots of people,” dancer Natalie Esquivias, 19, said.

Nuestras Raíces promotes education and performance while rooting back to the culture which gives them identity. Their cultural and academic experiences provide a sense of pride and meaning to the future of a diverse community.

“Nuestras Raices celebrates the idea of coming together, reminding us where we came from and why we do what we do every single day,” Mariana Cervantes, dancer for Nuestras Raices and Chicano studies major at El Camino. “It’s just a celebration every time we come together and dance.”

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Non-profit organization promotes culture and identity through music and dance