The line for pastelillos de guayaba, mini steak empanadas with pico de gallo, beef tamales and rice con gandules was long at Fort Bragg’s Hispanic Heritage Month 2017 celebration, Oct. 11, at the Iron Mike Conference Center. It was facilitated by the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 18th Fires Brigade.
“Some might describe this (food) as delicious,” said Maj. Troy Morken, 8th Military Information Support Battalion, who sampled the cuisine at the celebration.
“It’s an important part of our institution to celebrate and recognize the accomplishment of any of the groups that happen to be represented … taking time out of our schedule to come together, remember and recognize, and maybe in some small way, we can come together to celebrate,” Morken said.
This year’s observance included a self-paced tour through different decades of America’s history (using visual displays) while highlighting the contributions of Hispanic Americans, as well as an exhibition of books and resources by Throckmorton Library to spotlight the same.
Spc. Malik Martin, assigned to the 5th MISB, walked the tour and read placards about historic people of Hispanic descent such as Severo Ochoa, the first Hispanic individual to win the Nobel Prize in physiology and of 2nd Lt. Carmen Maria Lozano Dumbler, the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as an Army officer. Martin said his father is partly Hispanic and that it is important to learn about the culture.
“It’s human culture. We’re all connected in some ways, so why not just learn a little bit more,” he said.
For Eric Hernandez and Gabriel Garcia, both privates first class with the 1st MISB and both of Mexican ancestry, the observance provided an occasion for fellow Soldiers to learn about Hispanic heritage.
“(They) get to relate more and get to know your background. It’s not dividing each other by race: you get to come together,” explained Garcia.
“(They) get to see the efforts put into changing the world,” said Hernandez.
Their noncommissioned officer agreed.
“Most people forget about all this historic things and, honestly, it’s really a good thing to remember,” said Sgt. Kevin Hinojosa, 1st MISB.
The weekly celebration of Hispanic Heritage began in September 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended the observance to a month, celebrated Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Additionally, Mexico declared independence on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18 and Columbus Day, or Dia de la Raza, is recognized Oct. 12.
This year’s theme, “Shaping the Bright Future of America,” highlights how the culture and contributions of citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America help make America a better nation moving forward.
It also acknowledges the significance of the service of Hispanic persons in the armed forces.
Hispanic people have served this nation from the Civil War to the Global War on Terrorism and the Army continues to be strengthened by that service.
“As Army, we are all equal here. Yes, everybody has a different race, but we’re all together — one team, one fight,” said Hinojosa.