• Members of the Emerald Ballroom Fusion Dance Group perform Latin American dances for the attendees of Friday's Hispanic Heritage Month observation at the NCO Club. The event was hosted by the Soldier Support Institute.

    Hispanic heritage 1

    Members of the Emerald Ballroom Fusion Dance Group perform Latin American dances for the attendees of Friday's Hispanic Heritage Month observation at the NCO Club. The event was hosted by the Soldier Support Institute.

  • Ivan Segura, president of the Council of Mexicans in the Carolinas, addresses the crowd as the guest speaker Friday.

    Hispanic heritage 2

    Ivan Segura, president of the Council of Mexicans in the Carolinas, addresses the crowd as the guest speaker Friday.

  • Soldiers with the Victory Jazz Combo of the 282nd Army Band provide musical entertainment for the event.

    Hispanic heritage 3

    Soldiers with the Victory Jazz Combo of the 282nd Army Band provide musical entertainment for the event.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson celebrated the diversity of the military Friday with a banquet at the NCO Club observing the start of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Hispanics have been part of everything we've done in the United States for more than 238 years," said Col. (P) Paul Chamberlain, Soldier Support Institute commander.

Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. It wasn't until 1988 that the observance was expanded to four weeks, stretching from Sept. 15 until Oct. 15.

"There is significance in those dates," Chamberlain said. "Sept. 15 is when many of our Latin American neighbors ... celebrate their independence. Then, on the 16th and 18th of September, we have Chile and Mexico, who also celebrate their independence."

Columbus Day is in October, which is why the observance straddles two months.

"I became a Latino 10 years ago when I moved into the United States," said the event's guest speaker, Ivan Segura, president of the Council of Mexicans in the Carolinas. "I was Mexican before that. I'm still a Mexican, but now I'm American, but I'm also Latino. As Latinos, we are so different, but the differences are what bring us together."

Segura is a workforce development consultant for the Connecting People to Jobs/WIA Program, an initiative intended to move low-income Hispanic and Latino residents in the Midlands out of poverty.

"There are an estimated 3.2 million Hispanic-owned business in the United States, and they sell products and services to everybody," he said. "We are Latinos, and we are part of this community. We work together, we go to church together and our kids go to the same schools together."

When he first arrived in America in 2003, it was important to him to become an active part of his new community, he said.

"I decided I wanted to be active in the civic community," Segura said. "I wanted to be able to vote, and I wanted to become an American. We are a nation of immigrants, and they all have different stories. This is also what makes America great, and we need to be able to embrace some of that. We need to continue to be a nation of immigrants and realize that the differences also bring us together."

Page last updated Thu October 3rd, 2013 at 00:00