Oct. 7, 2009

Virginia Guard celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

By Spc. J. Erin Jones
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

It was a typical work day on post but in one building the air was not filled with the usual sounds of busy fingers typing away or the drone of voices giving briefs and having work discussions. In fact these employees and Soldiers where not doing any work. Instead, they had gathered in a classroom to socialize, eat quesadillas and learn to salsa dance.

 

Chief Warrant Officer Hector R. Rivera serves as the guest speaker during a Hispanic heritage event Sept. 30, 2009 at Fort Pickett. Rivera, who currently works for the National Guard Bureau’s Education Division, is a native of Puerto Rico. During his lecture he explained to the audience why it is important to understand Hispanic culture. (Photo by Spc. J. Erin Jones, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) For more photos, please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

The break from the usual routine was thanks to the Virginia National Guard Equal Opportunity Office, which hosted an event Sept. 30, 2009 at Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va. to celebrate Hispanic American Heritage Month.

The point of the event was to teach people about the Hispanic culture, to reduce barriers between people of different cultures and encourage them to embrace diversity, said Capt. Antoinette L. Allen, state equal employment manager, Virginia Guard Equal Opportunity Office.

The event was open to the public and featured a lecture by guest speaker Chief Warrant Officer Hector R. Rivera, Army National Guard loan repayment programs manager, National Guard Bureau, Education Division, who is a native of Puerto Rico.

During his lecture, Rivera pointed out that the percentage of Hispanics in the United States is increasing and could eventually be the largest ethnic group. “It’s because we have more children than you do,” said Rivera as the audience responded with laughter.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Hispanics accounted for 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population. The projected percentage of Hispanics for 2010 is 15.5 percent and based on current trends the Census Bureau is predicting that by 2050 Hispanics will make up 25.5 percent of the U.S.’s population. 

 

Employees at Fort Pickett learn how to salsa dance during a Hispanic heritage event Sept. 30, 2009 at Fort Pickett. Local disc jockey and dance instructor from Richmond, Va., Salsa Steve, provided the audience with a dance demonstration followed by a basic lesson on salsa dancing. (Photo by Spc. J. Erin Jones, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) For more photos, please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

Since Hispanics are such a predominant ethnic group, it is important for Americans to understand their culture and why they act the way they do instead of stereotyping them, said Rivera. A common mistake that people make is to think that all Hispanics are Mexican.

“There are 21 countries and every one of those countries has a different culture,” said Rivera. “Understanding their culture and their lives will help us understand who is living around us and that will make us better neighbors, better friends and better co-workers.”

Rivera also gave examples of how Hispanic cultures differ from that of Americans’. He said that while Americans tend to be very independent, Hispanic children will live with their families longer and will tend to their elders rather than send them to retirement homes.

As parents Hispanics are willing to sacrifice many of their dreams to make their children’s lives better, said Rivera. Then when those children are older they will make sacrifices to take care of their parents.

 

The Virginia National Guard Equal Opportunity Office along with local restaurant, Acapulco’s Mexican Grill, serves Hispanic food to participants of the Hispanic heritage event Sept. 30, 2009 at Fort Pickett. The event was a chance for servicemembers and Fort Pickett employees to learn about Hispanic culture. (Photo by Spc. J. Erin Jones, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) For more photos, please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

He also spoke about the work ethics of Hispanics. Some Hispanics are serving in top positions in the government and some are cleaning restrooms and washing dishes but whatever they are doing they do it with a passion because they feel they owe it to Americans for giving them the opportunity, explained Rivera.

Following Rivera’s lecture, Richmond, Va. disc jockey and dance instructor Steve Greene, known as Salsa Steve, gave a Latin dance seminar and performance in which the audience got to get out of their chairs, move to the music and learn the basic salsa steps.

“The instructions Salsa Steve gave were very clear and helpful, and he made the atmosphere very energetic and entertaining,” said Sgt. Christopher I. Brooks, human resource sergeant, Virginia Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.

After the dance demonstration, participants had a chance to mingle while sampling Hispanic foods provided by local restaurant, Acapulco’s Mexican Grill.

Everyone seemed to have a really great time, said Allen. The event was very interactive and people got to experience a touch of another culture. It was a big success, she added.

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