Hispanic Heritage Month came into existence in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, which expanded on Hispanic Heritage Week that was designated in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, acknowledges the contributions of more than 35 million people of Hispanic origin, and it celebrates the Hispanic heritage and culture in the United States.

West Point celebrated the Hispanic Festival at Trophy Point Sept. 18 with Peruvian, Mexican, Colombian and Cuban food. The food is always a big hit at this event as evidenced by the long line of participants throughout the festival.

The festival is sponsored by the West Point Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the Cadet Spanish Club and the Simon Center for Professional Military Ethic.

Hispanic music was provided by Orlando Marin, "the last of the mambo kings," and his orchestra, appearing for the second year in a row. Marin gave the diverse audience a brief history of Hispanic culture. The orchestra also featured Papo Pepin.

"The festival is to celebrate Spanish heritage," Cow Anthony Ruizcalderon, master of ceremonies at the festival, said. "Our culture is more than music, it's also about values and traditions. With the Spanish Festival, we hope to hear about (our) history, get in touch with the culture and break stereotypes."

The festival was well attended by the young and old who enjoyed the music and dance, learned the salsa or watched Bianca Soto and Jonathan Rodriguez, from the dance company Piel Canela Dancers, who demonstrated Hispanic dances, such as the salsa and the mambo.

Firstie Andres Pazmin, cadet-in-charge of the festival for the second year, said they pushed to have the festival outside no matter the weather conditions.

"(Having it outside) fits the culture because it's out in the open and free," Pazmin said. "We are getting more and more people here each year. We sent out flyers to the community and to the local areas.

"It's great to see people surprised that many cadets speak Spanish," he added.

Children took much pleasure in bashing several piAfA+-atas for the treats they held. Eight-year-old Angelica Menjiba really enjoyed beating the cardboard or paper mache piAfA+-ata as she belted one with a strike that tore the object, but not enough to knock it to the ground.

"I've done this a lot," she said. "People say I get my aggression out this way."

Seven-year-old George Huqui was proud of himself when he took out one piAfA+-ata, but he was disappointed when he found himself piled underneath others while losing his treasure.

The event was enjoyed by many, to include participants from other areas around the country.

"I'm used to the Spanish culture," Louise Chadwick, a Las Vegas resident and mom of Class of 1997 graduate, Maj. Douglas Chadwick, who is now deputy director for the Center of Enhanced Performance, said. "I came for the football game and to visit my son, and thought this (event) would be interesting."