Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated on Fort Bragg
September 30, 2011
The sound of Congo drums filled the halls of Womack Army Medical Center's ground level, Sept. 22. Willie Johnson, a latin jazz musician pounded out a rhythmic Hispanic tune for the packed Weaver Auditorium during Team Bragg Equal Opportunity's 'Many Backgrounds, Many Stories, One American Spirit' presentation in honor Hispanic Heritage Month.
Johnson's presentation was one of three special performances featured during the event.
Vega Suarez and Ciara Serrano of Roland's Dance Studio performed different Hispanic dances like the bachata, the salsa, and the merengue. Suarez is a Soldier with the 82nd Sustainment Brigade. Panamanian dancers with the Valle De La Luna Ballet also performed cultural dances for the audience.
National Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted in 1988 to celebrate and recognize the historical and cultural contributions of Hispanic Americans. The annual observance, originally only a week long, is now a 31-day period beginning on Sept. 15 and lasts until Oct. 15.
Col. Frank Christopher, WAMC's acting commander, opened the event welcoming everyone in Spanish. With many audience member shocked by Christopher's ability to speak Spanish, he continued to switch between English and Spanish recognizing the U.S. Army's diversity.
The guest speaker of the event was Command Sgt. Major Frances Rivera, senior non-commissioned officer of Northern Regional Medical Command. Rivera, who is set to retire in January, said she doesn't do public speaking very often but this event honoring her Hispanic heritage was the perfect way to end her more than 30-year career. Rivera is the only Hispanic female command sergeant major at her level.
"When I joined the Army, I didn't speak any English and to this day I still have to practise my English," explained Rivera. "We (Americans) sometimes look down on the people who don't speak English properly -- not just of Hispanic descent, but anyone who has immigrated here -- because they don't talk or look like 'us,' whatever 'us' is supposed to be.
"Today's (event) is titled 'Many Backgrounds, Many Stories, One American Spirit,' and it's apparent as I look into the audience today," said Rivera.
"Our skin is of many different shades and the costumes we wear are of different colors, but we are truly one American spirit. We have meshed our differences and diverse ethnic backgrounds. I challenge you today to not take any of our fallen heroes, of many ethnic backgrounds, blood in vain. We are all brothers and sisters."