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Multicultural party

Frank and Pilar Leto present “Carnaval Celebration 2020” at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22. (Courtesy of Frank Leto)

Frank Leto is going back to his roots with the “Carnaval Celebration 2020.”

The annual event is full of dance, music and beautiful costumes showcasing the Carnaval traditions of Cuba, Trinidad, Brazil and New Orleans.

It also marks the 15th annual Carnaval Celebration at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The event takes place on Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22.

“We’ve been doing it so long, it does get easier,” he says. “It gets easier, and people are still finding the show. It’s a way to educate the community about Carnaval celebrations.”

Carnaval – the festive season occurring before Lent in many countries, including Latin American and Caribbean nations as well as parts of the United States – is one of the world’s most widespread celebrations and one of its biggest parties.

Carnaval was first celebrated at the NHCC in 2002 and has been part of the center’s regular seasonal programming since 2006.

The event will also feature the band Pandemonium and Odara Dance Ensemble, led by Leto’s wife, Pilar.

Leto says getting all the right ingredients for the show takes some time.

Every year, the plan is to make Carnaval more fun for the audience. This year’s show is going to play out like a radio broadcast.

“I’ve hired Gene Corbin, who’s going to be broadcasting from WNHCC, which is the pretend radio show,” he says. “We’re going to have giveaways to people who are in the audience.”

Through the radio show setting, Leto says, there will be opportunities for educating the audience.

“There’s an excitement to this year’s show,” Leto says. “We’re always trying to change it up, and I think this one will be just as exciting as previous years.”

Through their partnership with the NHCC, the Letos have brought different cultures to be celebrated in New Mexico.

In November 2018, the Letos were honored with the city of Albuquerque’s Creative Bravos Award.

Leto says his dream after nearly two decades of putting the show on is that the city would get involved.

“I’d like to see a day dedicated to Carnaval,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be in February. But maybe do a parade and get the community involved by dressing up in costume and showcasing how diverse Albuquerque is. That’s my dream, and I’ll continue to work to make it happen.”

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