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Teen singer finds his voice at new Latino Civic and Cultural Center

A group of approximately 20 Latino teenagers, some wearing masks, pose for a photo holding certificates with balloons, streamers and a sign reading "Latino Civic Alliance" behind them.
Latino Civic Alliance
Graduates of the first recording arts class at the new Latino Civic and Cultural Center in Burien, Wash. Reynaldo Ismael Moreno is in the first row, third from left.

Reynaldo Ismael Moreno comes from a family of singers, but he never thought he’d have a song of his own. Thanks to the new Latino Civic and Cultural Center in Burien he now thinks a career in music is possible.

“I want to continue making music,” he said, adding that he prefers singing Rancheras over Latin pop songs.

During the four week-long music production class, Moreno and 13 other teens learned the ins and outs of digital music recording. The 14-year-old incoming freshman created a catchy Latin pop song about not knowing what to do without his love. The song was inspired by a girlfriend who stopped replying to his text messages. Despite the heartbreak he says hearing his own music is thrilling.

A white man with long gray hair wearing a mask stands speaking with a computer and audio equipment behind him. A Latino teenager wearing black sits in an armchair nearby smiling.
Latino Civic Alliance
Musician and producer Joe Reineke (left) taught the Latino Civic and Cultural Center's first recording arts class. Reynaldo Ismael Moreno (right) participated and created a catchy Latin pop song.

“At first you’re shy because everyone’s going to hear it, but then it feels good because everyone is going to recognize your talent,” he said in Spanish.

The program is one of many offered at the new center, part of the Washington state nonprofit Latino Civic Alliance. Located in Downtown Burien, the space will also double as a gallery and meeting place for local Latino leaders.

“It always had been in our dreams to build a space where Latino leaders could come together and the youth and learn about civic engagement and also incorporate the arts,” said Nina Martinez, chair of the nonprofit's board.

The Latino Civic Alliance saw the need for more after school programming targeted toward Latino teens after the 2017 shooting death of Elizabeth Juarez. She was 13 years old when she died.

Martinez says that and the growing Latino community were also a driving force in picking Burien. Now, Martinez says watching Moreno create something of his own makes her feel emotional.

“Renaldo was just so proud of his work. And that's what we want; the students here, the kids to feel like they can do anything they set their minds to,” she said.

Founded in 2005, the nonprofit plans to eventually open another center in Eastern Washington.

Agueda Pacheco Flores is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the South Seattle Emerald, Crosscut and The Seattle Times.