Advertisement

Hispanic Heritage Month: Hispanic seniors come together for music, culture and fellowship

A senior center in Pennsylvania 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.

Advertisement

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.

Every Wednesday morning, the bingo numbers get shuffled, called and marked at the Latino Hispanic American Community Center in Harrisburg. The game is a universal favorite pastime among the seniors. The socializing is in Spanish, also the universal language in the room, which weaves together a patchwork of backgrounds and experiences.

There's Eli, an immigrant from Mexico, who settled in Pennsylvania after a stay in New York. There's Ambrosio, from Guatemala, who has watched his family grow up in the U.S. Maria Naticia, who is only a few months into her new American life, wears a traditional dress from her native province in Ecuador.

These neighbors are now friends and are able to meet thanks to Gloria Merrick, who created the senior center to give bilingual and Spanish-speaking seniors a seat at the table. They hadn't had one like this before.

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

And here, they can feel the rhythm of their roots. It's a soundtrack strummed by Edwin Aponte Santana, a personal jukebox of Hispanic cultural hits.

Santana shares his Puerto Rican heritage through songs he first learned as a child. He plays them on a guitar his grandfather bought him.

"To play, it makes me happy. Makes me happy, the music," Santana said.

So, the music is always on the agenda at the senior center. And it serves a purpose. It's a way for these seniors to remember who they are and where they came from.

"We're preserving traditions and culture with the oldest generation, and that, we hope, is cascading down to all the other generations in the family," Merrick said.

And that's where the language, the flags and the songs come together – to hold on to customs and celebrate them among friends who know it all by heart.

Watch the video above for the full story.