Story by Regina "gina" Baltrusch on 09/16/2019REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command staff delivered a multi-sensory celebration of Hispanic culture, Sept. 12, at the Sparkman Center's Bob Jones Auditorium
The event featured community speakers, music, dancing, culinary treats and informational exhibits.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States with displays and discussions of the histories, cultures and contributions of ancestors who came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, according to the National Hispanic Heritage Month website www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov. This year's theme is "Honoring Hispanic Americans, Essential to the Blueprint of Our Nation."
Guest speaker for this year's event, Raul Piers Alvarez, explained why Hispanic Heritage Month is held in September and October each year. Alvarez is the president of the Hispanic Business Alliance of North Alabama, a member of the board of directors for the Decatur-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, and a retail market manager with Synovus Bank,
"Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries -- Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua," he said. "Also, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively."
Alvarez, who immigrated to the United States from Acapulco, Mexico, in 2004, noted several important contributions by Americans of Hispanic heritage, both past and present:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, born in the Bronx, New York to Puerto Rican-born parents. Before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009, Sotomayor was on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and an instructor at New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School.
Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, logged nearly 1,000 hours in space since her first mission in 1993. She is the co-inventor on three patents for optical inspection systems and was the head of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA's Ames Research Center.
"Here is one that is not as well-known," Alvarez noted. "Bernardo de Gaalves y Madrid, Governor of Louisiana when it was under Spanish rule in 1775, is one of the only eight people in history who the United States government has given an honorary citizenship."
On Dec. 16, 2014, the United States Congress conferred honorary citizenship on Gaalvez, citing him as a "hero of the Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong military support to the war effort." During the Revolutionary War, Gaalvez and his troops seized the Port of New Orleans and successfully defeated the British at battles in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Natchez, Mississippi; and Mobile, keeping the area open for supplies to reach George Washington's Army, according to the Joint Resolution as written in Public Law 113-229 of the 113th Congress.
Many people with Hispanic heritage have been essential to the footprint of the nation, said Alvarez. "We have worked hard as a nation for the success of this country that we call home. We get up every day to make this a better place for our future generations."
On Sunday, we the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, we do this without forgetting or ignoring every heritage that has helped shape the country from all over the world," Alvarez said. "Thanks to our differences, we stand together stronger, and we show that strength to the world by being a leader among the nations."