GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
By Megan Burnham
Joint Task Force Guantanamo
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - It was an evening of culture, dining and dancing, Oct. 4, 2008, as U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay's Hispanic-American Heritage Association hosted its annual dinner dance at the Windjammer Ballroom as part of National Hispanic American Heritage Month.
"Hispanic Heritage Month is the period to recognize the contributions of Hispanic-Americans to the U.S. and to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture," said Lydia Alvarez, HAHA vice president.
The celebration was first established in 1968, but only lasted for one week. However, President Ronald Reagan expanded the observation to cover a 31-day period, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, 2008.
The month-long celebration begins on the anniversary of independence of five Latin-American countries from Spain: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Gitmo-style, HAHA has been busy hosting other events, to include a Latin Food Fiesta at the former U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Commander Navy Capt. Mark M. Leary's house and a silent auction that also included salsa dance lessons and taste testing different Hispanic foods. An event called Kitchen Vacation was also held that provided a family breakfast from Panama, lunch from Puerto Rico, and dinner from Colombia.
"It's great that we get to share our culture with the entire community," said Doraima Alvarez, HAHA secretary. "We hold a big part in the American community as well, and they learn about our historical figures that make us proud to be Hispanics."
As guests arrived and handed in their tickets, their first sight of the ballroom was a display table that included cultural clothing native to Panama, Puerto Rico and Columbia, as well as arts and crafts, postcards and biographical information on historical Latin-American figures.
During the social hour of the event, hors d'oeuvres were offered that gave guests insight on the type of foods made from different Hispanic countries - potato cakes from Ecuador, an empanada recipe from Puerto Rico and corn fritters from Panama.
A highlight of the evening was the speech given by guest speaker Army Lt. Col. Doris J. Acevedo-Selpa, director for manpower, personnel and administration at Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
"I value the opportunity to reaffirm the pride in our heritage which contributes to the self-esteem of all Hispanic-Americans in Gitmo and share with non-Hispanic Americans so that they have a better understanding of our contributions to the nation," said Acevedo-Selpa, "as well as to educate on diversity which is understanding and valuing every person's different skills, talent and experience."
The dancing followed a meal of mojito chicken, congri rice and black beans and yuca. The first dance to be performed was the Cumbia, a Colombian-style dance. Next was the Congo from Panama and the Bomba y Plena from Puerto Rico. The final performance was a medley of dances, to include the Bachata, the Reggaetón, the Merengue and Salsa.
"Some dancers had been practicing as far as two months back," said Lydia Alvarez. "Other dancers only practiced for two weeks."
Door prizes were given throughout the night.
"We encourage everyone to join us at HAHA next year," said Lydia Alvarez. "We are planning to start again in February 2009 for another successful Hispanic American Heritage Month."
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This work, Gitmo Celebrates the Hispanic-American Culture, by SSG Megan Leuck, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.