FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Fort Jackson community will have the opportunity to experience Hispanic culture at the installation's annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, which is scheduled for Oct. 15 at Patriot Park.

The event, which is hosted by the Soldier Support Institute, is free and open to the public.
"Hispanic culture is thoroughly woven into the fabric of America. Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to recognize how important and integral it is to our society," said Brig. Gen. Mark McAlister, the SSI's commanding general. "In the Midlands, that means enjoying the music, food, dance and other traditions of more than 16 different cultures. I am really looking forward to the events on post and around the region."

Sgt. 1st Class Maurice McGhee, the SSI's equal opportunity adviser, said Latinos throughout the area look forward to the Fort Jackson event.

"We have a great Hispanic community here. Some of the Hispanics here put a lot of emphasis on (the celebration) being a festival as opposed to a luncheon. They just want to celebrate their heritage with other Americans."

The celebration will start with an official ceremony at 11:30 a.m. and will continue with live entertainment, dancing and food until 6 p.m.

"I'm excited about it," McGhee said. "It's a culture that everybody can enjoy."

The guest speaker for the ceremony will be Myriam Torres, clinical assistant professor at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health and director of the Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies.

Torres, a native of Colombia, came to the United States in 1989 to pursue a master's degree in public health. She now holds a doctorate in epidemiology and researches health issues among Latinos living in the United States.

Torres said that according to the 2010 census, South Carolina is the state with the largest growth in Latino population, which underscores the importance of celebrating Hispanic heritage.

"I think it is important because of the contributions that Latinos are giving to this country in many ways. We are in every layer of society -- from migrant workers ... to educators to politicians to athletes," she said. "Also, Latinos have been in the makeup of this country (from) the very beginning."
Torres said that her experience as a Latina has been twofold.

"I really found that if you have the qualifications, you can get a job," she said. "I was treated fairly, and my qualifications were taken into account."

However, Torres said that some Latinos with whom she works throughout the state experience hurdles that can be hard to overcome.

"The population I work with is facing lots of barriers to get health care, to understand the vocational system (as well as) economic barriers," she said. "It is the same, and sometimes more, than (for) native populations."
Torres said she hopes that the celebration will be attended by Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike.

"I want to talk about some of the achievements of the Latino community, about the good things we bring to the states and the United States," she said. "We, as Latinos, are more than what the media say, and sometimes more than what the politicians say. And all of us are contributing to the United States."

Page last updated Thu October 6th, 2011 at 00:00