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Multi Cultural Learning Center

The Multi Cultural Learning Center works directly with schoolchildren, both in the classroom and at our Granby, Massachusetts studio. Our goals are to expose inner city youth to the cultural heritage of Puerto Rico and to encourage their active participation in these traditions. We teach Carnival mask making, Afro-Puerto Rican instrument making, drumming, and dance, and Taino (Native American) rock painting and bracelet making. Sessions are typically one hour, twice a week and may take place either during or after school.

Like the Puerto Rican performance group Bomba de Aquí, MCLC is directed by Brendalíz Cepeda. Brendalíz has a BA in Education, an MA in Special Education, and has taught Special Education in the Holyoke school system for many years. Other workshop leaders include teachers and community members, all trained in our arts activities and methods. Brendalíz is the granddaughter of the great bomba performer Rafael Cepeda, and learned the art and its history in her family, first appearing on stage at the age of 5.

The Multi Cultural Learning Center is incorporated as an LLC. Prices for workshops vary. We want every child to have the opportunity to access Puerto Rican heritage, so please discuss with us your school’s needs and budget. For a list of schools we have worked at, click here.

Contact: 413-750-8579


Puerto Rican Musical Traditions


Bomba emerged from the musical traditions brought to Puerto Rico by enslaved Africans in the 17th century. Bomba instruments include several low drums or barrilesguiro scraper or a maraca, and sticks (cuá) all supporting the main rhythm. The primo or lead drum, la prima, follows the movements of the dancers. Bomba dancing is both fiery and subtle, with much emphasis on the expressive improvisations of individual dancers. Dancers may challenge the lead drummer by moving not just on the beat but at unexpected moments. Call-and-response songs add melody.


Plena is played on three frame drums, panderetas, plus guiro scraper or a maraca. Younger than bomba, it evolved in the barrios of Ponce, Puerto Rico in the early 1900s. Plena is known as “Puerto Rico’s newspaper” because songs are often topical,  commenting on notable current events or cultural themes.


Bomba de Aquí’s own invention, batuplena, mixes high-energy Brazilian samba rhythms and instruments (batucada) with Puerto Rican plena. The music is a hit at parties, weddings, and parades in the Puerto Rican community. For information on booking, contact Saul Peñalosa at 413-636-9997, or Brendalíz.

Performances, Community Events, Schools

Bomba de Aquí stage performances include appearances at:

  • Bomba de Aquí stage performances include appearances at:
  • City Stage, Springfield MA
  • Springfield Jazz Fest
  • Puerto Rican Day Parade, Boston
  • Noche Latina, New London CT
  • Wisteria House, Holyoke
  • Vermont Jazz Center, Brattleboro VT\
  • Taste of Holyoke, Holyoke MA
  • Drive into Spring, Holyoke Parks & Recreation
  • Noche de San Juan, Springfield
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA
  • Bay Path University, Longmeadow MA
  • Holyoke Community College, Holyoke MA

Community events

Bomba de Aquí has appeared at numerous events in the Springfield-Holyoke area Puerto Rican community, including weddings, cumpleaños, quinzeañeras, Three Kings Day and other church celebrations, block parties, benefits for organizations (e.g., Boys and Girls Club) and individuals (e.g., raising medical expenses), baseball games, and even a funeral.

While Bomba de Aquí is not a political group, we support selected events of importance to our community, for example the Black Lives Matter rally in Hartford CT in summer 2020, the 2021 Juneteenth Celebration in Springfield MA, and a celebration of Puerto Rican activist Oscar Lopez in Holyoke MA.


Bomba de Aquí and the Multi Cultural Learning Center have given workshops at many schools, including:

  • Duggan Middle School, Holyoke
  • Sullivan Elementary School, Holyoke
  • Morgan Elementary School, Holyoke
  • Holyoke High School
  • Libertas Academy Charter School, Springfield MA
  • Paolo Fiere Social Justice Charter School, Chicopee MA
  • Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School, South Hadley, MA
  • Vernon Hill School, Worcester MA