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Tampa music teacher says move to America from Mexico gave him greater understanding of his culture

“When I hear your anthem, the home of the free, that word, which is the highest note on the anthem, I feel it inside."

TAMPA, Fla. — As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting different community members here in Tampa Bay who are positively impacting the area. 

Meet Rafael Harari, a local music teacher who has influenced cello and piano students of all ages.

“I was born in Mexico City and I have always been in love with the United States,” he said.

Harari and his wife Ana had been vacationing in Tampa since 1976, and have always loved the area and appreciated the country. 

“When I hear your anthem, the home of the free, that word, which is the highest note on the anthem, I feel it inside,” explains Harari. 

It’s his anthem, too.

In 1995, Harari and his wife made a permanent change, pulling his two sons from the family and life they knew in Mexico to call Tampa Bay home. 

“I wanted them to have an opportunity in life,” Harari explains, saying the devaluation of the Pesos was a final straw for them at the time. “Our economy was going up and down and up and it was tough. I began to look at [my sons] and I said they are going to grow up, this is not possible.”

They found possibilities and more here in Florida. 

His two boys are grown with families of their own and a successful company that they’ve built together. 

The Hararis have continued to expand the family tree while maintaining its beautiful roots. 

“We celebrate our Hispanic culture every day, with friends. In many different ways. It’s part of our life,” he said. 

From artwork in their home, trips back to Mexico, the food on their table, and the language on their lips — it’s evident. 

But Harari explains, perhaps surprisingly, their move to America those many years ago actually offered them a greater understanding of culture. 

“We call Florida the capital of the Latin American people,” he says and continues to explain, “when I lived in Mexico, I never met Latin American people from other countries. I moved to Florida, I know Colombians, Ecuadorians, Guatemalans, Argentinians, Venezuelans. Here I began to meet the food from those countries, the people from those countries, the songs from those countries.”

He’s been playing the melodies alongside his music students, with a focus on cello and piano. 

His wife Ana laughs as she calls music Harari’s “first love.” 

It’s a love he’s been instilling in Tampa Bay area students for about 5 years now. 

Ana challenged him, after his 60th birthday to follow his passion. 

Harari had been a businessman for years. 

“She said, why don’t you teach and I have been teaching since,” he said. 

From young children to adults, Julliard bound students and beyond, “I have all kinds of students and it’s a beautiful moment with each one.”

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