Compañía de Danza Folklórica Arizona performed intricate folklórico dancing at the 2018 Hispanic Heritage Celebration.

After five years and $30,000 in scholarships the Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corporation continues to organize events to benefit local youth and promote Hispanic heritage during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Six years ago semi-retired engineer Lupe Munoz, 73, and Safford City Council member Michael Andazola, 47, sat together to have a conversation about helping the Hispanic youth in the Gila Valley. The men had known each other for years and each had volunteered at St. Rose of Lima’s Cinco De Mayo celebration.

The nonprofit corporation was born as a result of that conversation, with Munoz taking on the role of secretary treasurer and Andazola the chairman position. Every year, the corporation holds a dinner and performance event complete with Mariachi performers and folklorico dancers. The money collected has funded 15-18 partial and full scholarships to Eastern Arizona College. Scholarship recipients are chosen by the EAC Foundation.

“I wanted to do something and bring more culture into the area and also educate the students in the area so they know more about their culture,” said Andazola.

This year’s events will kick off Thursday at 10 a.m. at EAC’s Lee Little Theater with a small free concert.

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“The reason why I feel this needs to happen is so we can bring the community together to celebrate the culture,” said Andazola. “I wanted to do something to bring more culture into the area, and also educate the students in the area so they know more about culture.”

The scholarship fundraiser will be on September 25 at the EAC Activities Center. A first performance at 3 p.m. will cost $15 per person, and will include performances by Mariachi Aguilas De Las Cruces and a folklorico dance group. A second performance will be at 6 p.m. but will include dinner and will cost $55 per person.

“We want to present the art, music, dance, colors, food and traditions that keep the families together,” said Munoz. “And promoting education for each one of these kids, Hispanics, to improve themselves and get a piece of the pie.”

Each year the corporation chooses to recognize a local family from within the community as Hispanic Family of the Year. This year Joe and Nadine Carrasco will be recognized posthumously. Joe Carrasco worked on community help projects such as building houses for the Little Hollywood settlement. Nadine Carrasco started the community action programs LULAC and Chicanos por la Causa in Graham County. She also started the GED Program at Little Hollywood Community Center.

“This family was selected because of their contributions to the community and for being outstanding citizens of this county i.e. ‘salt of the earth,’” Munoz said in an email.

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