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Heritage Month Sheds Light on Hispanic Culture

By Sgt. Stephanie Hall, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Oct. 14, 2003 – A mixture of people rich in diversity has celebrated and honored one of its component cultures here during Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and concludes Oct. 15.

A series of events throughout the month introduced Bagram personnel to a touch of the Hispanic culture. A cake-cutting ceremony kicked off the month Sept. 16 at Bagram's Base Operations headed by Lt. Col. Luis B. Crespo, commander of the 10th Soldier Support Battalion and the keynote speaker for that event.

Crespo said he believes cultural observances like Hispanic Heritage Month are not solely for the sake of the group being recognized; they're also a chance for others to gain new knowledge about the group.

"Many would argue, 'Why celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? Why celebrate any minority month at all?'" Crespo said.

"One of our biggest strengths is our diversity, (but) diversity is a double- edged sword," he added. "Our diversity is a strength only if we can capitalize on it, (and) we capitalize on that diversity when we are different, but united."

Education about different cultures can help strengthen that unity by dissolving stereotypes through educational events like Hispanic Heritage Month, said Maj. Thomas McGeachy, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Mountain Division, equal opportunity program manager.

"By doing events like that, it's not just to highlight that group alone. We're not saying that Hispanic Heritage Month is just for Hispanics," he said. "We want everyone to participate, because we want that cross-talk to occur so that we have a better understanding of each other."

Bagram's base operations hosted a Latin dance and cookout Sept. 27, as the month's featured event. Appetizing aromas from the barbeque wafted through the air as participants ate their fill and then danced the Salsa to the lively Latin music being played.

"The dance was a great success," said Spc. Jo A. Salazar, 213th Area Support Group, a member of the Hispanic Heritage Month committee. Even the people who didn't dance "watched people dancing and thoroughly enjoyed themselves," she said. "It gave a chance to people to get together and socialize (away) from the normal, everyday work."

Throughout the month, several other events highlighted different aspects of the Hispanic culture. The contractor Kellogg's Brown and Root contributed to Hispanic Heritage Month by serving various types of Hispanic foods at Bagram's dining facilities on a weekly basis.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation supported the month by holding movies featuring Hispanic actors and actresses each Friday night. Moviegoers were treated to nachos with cheese, salsa and chili.

The events demonstrated the cohesion of Bagram's personnel, Salazar said.

"It's just good to see how people can work together, and to share experiences with different cultures," she said. "It's exciting if people really, really care."

(Army Sgt. Stephanie Hall is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment)

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