Children wearing masks stomp their feet on concrete as they watch the new baile folklórico teacher nod her head and gesture the beats: right, left, right, left. The students are gathered on this Sunday evening in June at the local park in Humboldt County, California and show their excitement with this fun, social activity.
The person leading this effort is Lucy Salazar, the president of Cumbre Humboldt — a local nonprofit celebrating its 2-year anniversary.
“Music. Dancing. It’s math. It’s rhythm. It’s teamwork. It’s being able to focus,” Salazar says.
After Salazar retired from a 20-year career in the sciences as a fuels management specialist, she founded Cumbre after volunteering at the elementary local school where her daughters went.
“Since I am bilingual, I volunteered to help with the Spanish-speaking kids, the English-learners,” she says. “It became pretty obvious right away that they were falling through the cracks.”
As a result, she started Cumbre Humboldt, which promotes educational and enriching opportunities for Latinos and Spanish speakers, especially education opportunities for the children of immigrants.
Humboldt County is a small, rural community five hours north of San Franciso where the Redwoods reach high in the sky and Latinos make up only 12% of the population and few resources and activities are geared toward them. Statewide, Latinos make up nearly 40% of California’s population.
Cumbre is an acronym and it stands for: confidence, unity, motivation, balance, respect, and empathy.
“That ‘c’ for confidence is really important to me,” Salazar says. “If you can perform in front of a large group of strangers, then in class you can ask your questions. … It all kind of comes together for that well-rounded person: It’s the education and enrichment and confianza — that confidence — that’s so important.”