PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - National Hispanic Heritage Month was observed at the Presidio of Monterey on Oct. 12 at an assembly at the Tin Barn auditorium with students and faculty of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in attendance. The program included an address by a guest speaker and entertainment in Hispanic tempo by volunteer performers from DLIFLC.

The Navy's Presidio-based Center for Information Dominance Detachment sponsored the event. In his welcoming remarks, Lt. Cmdr. Thor Martinsen, the detachment's officer in charge, needed only a few words to summarize the program about to unfold.

"Today we get to celebrate the many accomplishments of Hispanic Americans and what they have done to make this country what it is today," he said.

Guest speaker Maria Cubau, a native of Argentina who has served as a DLIFLC Spanish Department Chairperson since 2008, enlarged upon the theme.

"The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing, youngest segment of America's population, accounting for 12 percent of its total in the year 2000," Cubau said. "Hispanics are the largest minority in America and experts predict that by the year 2040, one in four Americans will be Hispanic."

Cubau said Spanish has become the United States' "de facto second language" and that the nation's popular culture is being reshaped by Hispanic influences.

"Mexican food has become an American favorite," she said. "Salsa, the hot sauce, has replaced ketchup as the number-one condiment in America. Rock music in Spanish makes it to the top-ten pop charts and Latino artists like Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, George Lopez, Andy Garcia and others are commonplace on the American art scene today."

Cubau said America's national pastime also is Hispanic-influenced, with Hispanics among the star players and team owners of major league baseball.

"One of the highest-paid athletes in any sport in the United States is Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees," Cubau noted.

"And the nation's almost 47 million Hispanics are just getting warmed up," she said. "There are 5,000 elected Hispanic officials serving at all levels of the government throughout the United States. Washington has seen a number of Hispanic Americans taking high-level positions, such as former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor."

Cubau said the combination of Hispanic political power and purchasing power, which she said is over $600 billion a year "are facts of life that America can no longer ignore."

Entertainment following Cabau's address began with a demonstration of an authentic Argentine tango performed by Charles Carroll of DLIFLC's Multi-Language Department and his dance partner Nance Hoeft, introduced as "Mister Carroll and Nance."

Navy Seaman Dalton Lightkeeper and Army Staff Sgt. Lucas Reilly sang a soft version of the American standard "My Way" in Spanish translation with their own guitar accompaniment.

Members of DLIFLC Spanish Class 510 performed a Cuban-style salsa dance.

National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed annually throughout the United States from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. It was first celebrated in 1989 in accordance with Public Law 100-402 signed by President Ronald Reagan on Aug. 17, 1988. The measure amended a public law signed 20 years earlier by President Richard M. Nixon which had established National Hispanic Heritage Week.

The mid-September to mid-October timing of Hispanic Heritage Month pays homage to the national aspirations of Latin American neighbors of the United States. Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico declared its independence on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18.