ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Hispanic history and culture were celebrated during the APG annual observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Myer Auditorium at APG North (Aberdeen) Oct. 1.
Team APG Equal Employment Opportunity specialists and volunteers hosted the event for the community and welcomed local students from C. Milton Wright and Joppatowne high schools, who were also in attendance.
Rose Satz, from the Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center greeted the audience in English and in Spanish.
Satz, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, said Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is set aside to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
During this 30-day period, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days. Also, Columbus Day, or Dia de la Raza, falls within this time period.
In keeping with this year's theme, "Hispanics: A Legacy of History, a Present of Action and a Future of Success," the keynote speaker was retired Maj. Gen. Robert L. Nabors, former commander of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Nabors has been an information technology professional for more than 46 years. He is currently is an executive advisor within the Booz Allen Hamilton's defense market and is a member of Mensa.
Nabors said he was proud, honored and humbled to have the opportunity to speak to at an APG event.
"This is my home," he told the audience.
Nabors said during Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the many significant contributions Hispanic Americans have made in business, government, science, athletics, the military, the arts and other fields.
Nabors emphasized that Hispanic Americans come from all walks of life and all socioeconomic backgrounds. He cautioned the audience against thinking about Hispanic Americans as one homogenous group. Nabors said one stereotype that persists in the media is that most Hispanic Americans are living in poverty
"In perpetuating this myth, we stigmatize an entire group of people from scores of nationalities, and we lay the poisonous groundwork for hatred, bigotry and intolerance in its many forms," he said.
Nabors said diversity strengthens the nation and compared Americans to the many cables that are tightly woven together that make up the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," he said. "Diversity does not weaken a nation, it strengthens it."
Nabors added that throughout America's history, immigrants have encountered hardships like prejudice and language barriers. Many immigrants, however, have overcome these hardships and have made better lives for themselves and their Families through perseverance and hard work.
"America is still the land of opportunity," he said. "You are not forever imprisoned by the unfortunate circumstances of your birth but are rather permitted to soar by your own hard work, intellect, courage, and indomitable will."
The program also included an invocation by Douglas A. Solivan and his wife Wilma Y. Solivan, from CECOM, who prayed in English and in Spanish. Rachel Acevedo, of the Civilian Human Resources Agency sang "Un Lugar Celestial" (Heavenly Place) and "De Creer En Ti" (On My Knees) by Jaci Velásquez. Cliff Basnight, from Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, sang the national anthem, and David Jimenez, director of the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, served as the program master of ceremonies.
After the program, attendees sampled Hispanic food from a local restaurant and viewed cultural displays in the auditorium lobby.
Amadelis Mattei, a Joppatowne High School Spanish teacher, said she thought the program was a great learning opportunity for her students.
"I want my students to be open minded and accept others as equals," she said "Being Hispanic, I want my students to understand that we are Hispanic, but we are different also."
Corie Adams, a sophomore from JHS, called the event informative
"I learned how immigrants overcame adversity and struggled to do something great, not just for themselves, but for a nation as a whole," he said.
Master Sgt. John Castillo, from the U.S. Army Public Health Command, said that he appreciated Nabor's message. Castillo, who is Mexican American, said it is important to recognize the contributions of ethnic groups throughout the year.
"Diversity not only benefits our country, but it benefits our organization, the Army," he said "People bring in different experiences; it is all value added, it just makes us better."