DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Though born of Mexican parents, Abraham Hernandez grew up in Provo light-skinned, without an accent. He didn't begin to speak English until preschool.
"Growing up, I never experienced racism firsthand," he said as guest speaker during the Oct. 5 Hispanic Heritage Observance at Dugway Proving Ground. "I did see and hear it around me, and that would eventually affect my identity and how I saw myself in this world."
"I never denied being Hispanic, but I certainly never led an introduction with stating that fact," Hernandez said. He was denied a college Hispanic scholarship because his formidable leadership skills hadn't been "within my community." Then, the Provo School District hired him to assist adults learning English. His multicultural experience became invaluable.
"I became an example of being able to bridge the cultural and language divide for many of our adult learners," Hernandez said. "I was finally making the positive impact 'within my community' by just being me and not adhering to what others believed I should be."
Though America is often compared to a melting pot, Hernandez said it is more like a stew: individual identities with distinct flavors and textures enriching the mixture.
He ended his presentation by stating his pride in being a Mexican-American, gratitude to the country that adopted his parents and became his home, honor to enrich a country that has brought peace and opportunity to millions with diverse backgrounds, and thankfulness for celebrating a heritage and culture that has enriched America.
"It lets younger generations know that it is possible to live in a multicultural world," Hernandez said, adding that Hispanics or Latinos in the military love this country and risk their lives to ensure the freedoms we enjoy.
After his presentation, students from the Latinos in Action chapter of Stansbury High School presented Hispanic music and dance.
Col. Brant D. Hoskins, commander of Dugway Proving Ground, noted that Hispanics have defended America and its ideals for centuries. "I have never served without a Hispanic Soldier next to me," he said. "When the nation calls, the Hispanic community heeds that call. I'm proud to serve beside Hispanic Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines."
The event was capped by Hispanic food sampling cooked and served by Community Club employees.