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Hispanic heritage spices up month with culture, music, food

Map

A world map lays on a table during the National Hispanic Heritage Month display at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 28, 2017. Attendees were encouraged to place pins on their country of origin to show that people come from different backgrounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

Culture displayed

Staff Sgt. Alejandro Munera, 11th Surgical Squadron diagnostic imaging technician, describes his Columbian background to an attendee during the National Hispanic Heritage Month display at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 28, 2017. JBA members observe the month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year, by celebrating the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

Old clay man

A Columbian coffee farmer clay sculpture stands on a presentation table during the National Hispanic Heritage Month display at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 28, 2017. Attendees learned many facts about Latin countries including Columbia’s coffee history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Fall is officially here and pumpkin spice isn’t the only flavor of the season. National Hispanic Heritage Month started as base members got a spicy Latin introduction during a display event at the base theater on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 28.

Each year, JBA members observe NHHM from Sept. 15 to Oct.15 by celebrating the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

“It’s important that JBA gives awareness about the [Hispanic culture],” said Senior Airman Jose Madera-Chaves, 844th Communication Group executive assistant. “The event shows where [Hispanic service members] come from and how that plays a role in giving them determination, strength of character and a sense of community. I want each participant to realize that they are part of that bigger community.”

NHHM was established as a week-long celebration by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and then extended in 1988 by former President Ronald Reagan to become a month-long celebration to recognize the customs and traditions.

The date, Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the festivity because it is an independence anniversary shared by five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. These countries were a few of the 22 nations presented at the display event.

JBA’s display featured booths signifying multiple countries and their cultures through photographs, historical facts and art. The stations provided attendees a peek into the lives of Hispanic military members. Some of the countries featured on this day were the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Puerto Rico and Columbia.

Along with the displays, the occasion featured Latino and Hispanic food such as empanadas and tostones from a base restaurant.

“I enjoyed being part of this event because people are able to represent and show their culture to the base,” said Staff Sgt. Alejandro Munera, 11th Surgical Squadron diagnostic imaging technician. “There are service members from different Latin countries and this event is a good way to spread awareness about those different backgrounds. I loved being able to tell people about my Columbian background and learn about others’ heritage.”

The month will end with a Latin Night Celebration at the JBA Community Commons, Oct. 13 from 7:30 - 10 p.m.

“I encourage base members to come out to the events we have planned this month and learn something new,” Madera-Chaves said. “Our closing event will be a salsa night, which will feature 30 minutes of teaching dance moves to attendees. Then, the rest of the evening will be open for dancers to show their moves.”
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