FORT JACKSON. S.C. -- It's la fiesta time.

The Fort Jackson community will celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with music, dancing, food and lots of entertainment from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Patriots Park.

Soldiers, family members and civilians are invited to learn about the art, history and achievements of Hispanics, especially within the military. The culture and heritage of different Latin countries will be represented through colorful displays, traditional dances and customary dishes.

"It is our hope to broaden the scope of understanding about the diversity of Hispanic cultures and to dispel myths through an atmosphere of free family fun," said Sgt. Maj. Angie Blanchette, equal opportunity proponent sergeant major, U.S. Army Soldier Support Institute, which is hosting the event.

The theme for this year's celebration is "Heritage, Diversity, Integrity and Honor: The Renewed Hope of America."

"Through our efforts we hope to create an environment of mutual respect - a diverse community that values individuals and groups without prejudice," Blanchette said.

Tanya Rodriguez-Hodges, president and CEO of Latino Communications, will be guest speaker for the event.
Although born and raised in New York, Rodriguez-Hodges' family originates from Puerto Rico. She said she plans to talk about her upbringing, the differences she experienced living in the Northeast compared to the South and the positive changes she has witnessed in South Carolina's acceptance of the Hispanic population.

"I hope to make people aware that there are more countries that Hispanic Americans come from," Rodriguez-Hodges said. "There are so many cultures beyond what is portrayed in the media. There are more than 16 countries represented in the Midlands alone."

Blanchette said she expects more than 1,000 people to attend this year's celebration. She said she hopes attendees will leave the event with a better understanding of Hispanic cultures.

"Our goal is to have our participants walk away with more knowledge and understanding of one another than when they first walked in," Blanchette said.


-- Official Ceremony with guest speaker Tanya Rodriguez-Hodges: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
-- Live music, food, children's activities: 12:30 to 6 p.m.
-- Entertainment featuring: DJ Orly Aycart, Buay Calito (Reggaeton performer), Orquesta Mayor (band), Blanca and Chris Flores of Con Sabor Dance Co.(Salsa dancers)