News: Soldiers celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in Iraq
Story by Sgt. Omar Estrada
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – Soldiers of the 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, along with other units on Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, commemorated Hispanic Heritage Month with a celebration on Sept. 14.
The event was organized by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Romero of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd AAB, 1st Cav. Div., and held at the Memorial Hall on COB Adder Romero, the Brigade Equal Opportunity Adviser, knows what it is to be Hispanic and
understand other cultures as well. He was raised in east Los Angeles where Cinco De Mayo (La Batalla de Puebla), Dia de la Raza, and Hispanic Heritage Month are big celebrations for Latinos.
“To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and multi-cultural awareness training, is an honor because first of all, I come from a father born in Spain and a mother born in New Mexico, so I got that Spanish and Latino blood in me,” said Romero. “I grew up in a Latino community where I learned Hispanic traditions. I am able to understand different cultures. This month we don’t just celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, but multi-cultural awareness as well.” he said.
The event included education on Hispanic American history, music, food and dancing.
Sgt. Anita Singh and Sgt. Yolanda Herrera, both from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd AAB, 1st Cav. Div., ordered dresses from
the U.S. and performed Mexican folklore dances for the ceremony.
“To be able to celebrate Hispanic heritage month means a lot to me here in Iraq since we are away from our families. To present a little bit of our culture and to be able to put a smile on soldiers faces means a lot,” said Singh. “The show was great, everybody liked it. I had comments saying that they liked it and it reminded them of México; they felt like back at home.”
Romero appreciated just how much of an impact the dancers made to the event.
“I think the Mexican folklore dancers grabbed the attention of the soldiers, they brought more richness to the ceremony; their costume, earrings and make up. The crowd was much more
into it.” said Romero.
Hispanic culture is broad and the differences are many; things such as food, phrases, accent, appearance and the type of music they listen to.
“My wife was born and raised Panama, that’s another portion of the Latino culture that surrounds me. When I speak with Latinos from different countries they can understand and realize that I have a Panamanian accent, since I speak Spanish with my wife at home.” said Romero. “When I speak with a Hispanic from another country he can clearly understand what I say, but some of the words are completely different or not used in their vocabulary,” he added.
The types of food also vary within different Hispanic countries, but the smell, texture, time to prepare and then enjoy with family at the table, from the simplest dish to the most complicated, is a common bond for gatherings.
Pfc. Rocio Acaba, an aviation operations specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, came out of the Memorial Hall with a smile on her face and memories of home.
“I really miss arroz con gandules, pasteles, arroz con pollo, anything that deals with arroz [rice],” said Acaba.
The event was an overwhelming success with approximately 150 soldiers and civilian contractors in attendance, bringing a huge sigh of relief and a big smile from Romero.
“I hope everybody learned something and as well enjoyed themselves. It’s not only for Hispanics but for all cultures, it’s an awareness training and celebration to realize that there are more cultures than just the one you are from,” said Romero.