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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2011

Randolph Hispanic Heritage Month observance tells 'many stories'

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

A month-long showcase of the rich history, traditions and contributions of Hispanic-Americans is under way at Randolph.

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began as a week-long observance in 1968, kicked off Thursday at the entrance to the base exchange with a program that featured remarks by Col. Scott Peel, 902nd Mission Support Group commander; a chili cook-off; and Latin music. A Latin social with free dance lessons and hors d'oeuvres is planned from 4 to 6 p.m. today at the Kendrick E'Club.

Maj. Angel Betancourt, Randolph Hispanic Heritage Observance Month Committee chairman, said the intent of the month-long celebration is reflected in this year's theme, "Many Backgrounds, Many Stories ... One American Spirit."

"Our goal is to teach people about all the different Latin influences and cultures we have," he said. "With all the events we have planned, we are trying to reach the gamut of the base population - from active-duty members to the children. We want everyone to participate. It's exciting to promote the Hispanic culture."

Capt. Maggie Silva, committee member, said Hispanic-Americans, whose roots are in Spain, Mexico and Central and South America, represent a diversity of backgrounds.

"There are so many different cultures and traditions," she said. "Not only do we come from Mexico, but from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia and many other countries. We want to expose all those traditions."

Betancourt said two events planned during Hispanic Heritage Month are geared to children: a piñata party from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Randolph Child Development Center and a storytelling session from 10 to 11 a.m. Sept. 27 at Randolph Elementary School.

A cooking class from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 29 at the chapel annex will showcase Latin dishes such as arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, he said.

The final events of the month are a 5K fun run at 7:15 a.m. Oct. 5 at Eberle Park and the JBSA Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon featuring the U.S. Army Medical Command Band from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Parr O'Club.

"We are hosting the luncheon this year," Betancourt said. "San Antonio City Councilman Ray Lopez will be our guest speaker."

The national celebration of Hispanic cultures began under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and was expanded to one month in 1988, when Ronald Reagan was president. The Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile all celebrate their independence days in September.

Silva said planning the Randolph celebration was "a labor of love."

"We want to make it festive and interesting while promoting diversity and cultural awareness," she said. "That's important. We don't all walk and talk the same way. Diversity is part of our upbringing."

Betancourt said diversity is "what makes us stronger."

"All of us bring something different to the mix," he said.