HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Originally from Linares, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Gloria Canales founded the Gloria Canales School of Dance in 1975. Since then, Canales has danced her way into many hearts.

“She knew what she needed to do,” said former student, Gina Cano. “[She’s] extremely hardworking. You could go in and she had multiple notebooks all full of things she wanted to do.”

Through her efforts, Canales’ students have proudly represented Harlingen while performing at the Hispanic Caucus in Washington, DC, Mardi Gras in France, the International Festival de Musica, Danza y Canciones’ in Spain and at the 1994 Miss USA pageant.

Nora Estrada, a former student, has now taken over Canales’s legacy in the studio.

“[She was] very passionate about her work,” Estrada said. “She loved it. I love it, but I think she loved it more. She would sleep, eat and dream dance. This was her life and she dedicated her entire day to putting programs together, to organizing concerts, organizing functions.”

Canales wore many hats, aside from being a dance instructor. She also started and sponsored the Miss Senorita Cinco de Mayo pageant, organized scholarships and became president of the Mexican Chamber of Commerce. 

Cano’s daughter also got the chance to dance under Canales’s teachings.

“It was probably one of the most special things, you know, for me to be able to share what I remembered as a child with Ms. Canales, to see my daughter experience that with her as well,” Cano said.

Her legacy is still felt years after she stopped teaching due to health complications. 

“That’s the goal,” Estrada said. “We want to make sure that every generation that comes forward understands what this is and then embraces it and understands that it is a beautiful thing going forward. Hopefully, their children and their children’s children will know what it represents.”

The City of Harlingen will put on a performance for Canales at the Fiesta de Pi​ñatas.