The Dunkirk High School Auditorium was transformed Monday by the sights and sounds of a foreign land with music, dancing and folk tales in honor of Puerto Rico Discovery Day.
Students from School 3, under the direction of teacher Doris Mirna Ortiz, celebrated the culture of Puerto Rico and the discovery of the nation by Christopher Columbus on Nov. 19, 1493.
"It's always the Monday before Thanksgiving and this year happened to fall on November 19," Ortiz said.
OBSERVER Photos by Samantha McDonnell
A group of first-grade students performed “Partes del Cuerpo” which named various parts of the body.
Puerto Rico Discovery Day started more than 20 years ago with a multicultural program and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Ortiz said she moved to School 3 from the middle school and started holding the celebration in the elementary school.
School 3 Principal Dan Genovese said the program is a great way to showcase the students' talents. Almost 100 students participated in this year's event and have been rehearsing for almost two months. New this year was the addition of live music by Luis Miranda.
"Mr. Miranda was so excited to play," Ortiz said. "He already said next year we'll do it bigger and better."
Genovese opened the ceremony by recognizing the students for their hard work and efforts. Along with Ortiz, teacher Emilie Barnett also served as emcee for the ceremony.
The national anthems of Puerto Rico and the U.S. were sung by teacher Christie Lokietek and parent Sonia Garcia, respectively. Students Zachary Lekliter and Lydia Lokietek carried in both flags of Puerto Rico and the United States.
The students performed dances and songs to honor Puerto Rican heritage. Students in kindergarten and first grade danced with Maria DeJesus, a parent, and Barnett to a drum beat demonstrating the influence of Native Americans on Puerto Rican history.
The second-grade students performed "Rondas Infantiles," which are games said in rhyme. Students in first grade performed "Habia un Sapo" and "Partes del Cuerpo." During "Habia un Sapo," students were joined by Sapo, a character from a television show entitled "Atencion Atencion."
Fifth-grade student Max and fourth-grade pupil Odalys performed a version of folk tale "Juan Bobo." Other fifth-grade students performed a salsa and third- and fourth- grade students danced to "Pasos Caribenos y Bomba."
"The drummer may follow the dancer but not the other way around," Barnett said, telling the audience about the dance.
The audience also got to see vejigantes, a fictional folklore character. The vejigantes are a tradition of Carnival and wear masks made out of paper mache. The masks are usually colorful and have horns, and vejigantes typically blow up cow bladders to toss at parade attendees.
Ortiz thanked all those who helped with the event, including DeJesus and her husband. The couple are "very dedicated to Puerto Rican culture and history," Ortiz said. She hopes next year's event will be bigger.
"I hope next year will be bigger and better," Ortiz said. "I'm very appreciative to all the teachers of School 3, especially Mrs. Barnett. All the kids did an awesome job."
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