It was an event filled with Latino dancing, music and a display of cultural pride.
This year’s observance – with the theme of “Embracing, Enriching and Enabling America,” – was organized by the 71st Transportation Battalion, Army Logistics University.
The 392nd Army Band started off the celebration with upbeat Latin music such as salsa, merengue and bachata. At the same time, the audience watched a slideshow on Hispanic contributions to American society.
Opening remarks were given by Michael K. Williams, president, ALU. He talked about how he prepared for his speech.
He explained how he went online and looked up Hispanic culture and came across a related test. He said to himself, “In honor of Hispanic Culture Month, I’m going to take this test.” It had subjects, such as history, immigration, and Hispanic leaders. Williams had thought after taking Spanish for three years in high school and a year in West Point, he would have no problem taking the test. He scored 21 out of 35. He found out he had some basic Hispanic knowledge. “It was really a hard test,” he said. He searched online to educate himself on the answers he missed. He encouraged everyone in the audience to take the test and learn something new about Hispanic history and culture.
Soon after his remarks, the Latin Ballet dancers engaged the audience with Latino dancing. The audience was clapping their hands to the beat of the music.
The observance brought a local guest speaker, Michel Zajur, CEO and founder of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He started off thanking everyone for their service. He talked about his past, coming to the U.S. as a child from Mexico. He said, “It was quite different than now.”
His five siblings all translated for their parents and opened up a diner in the early 70s, which served Mexican food. He said back then, it was like pulling teeth to get people of Richmond to eat their food. It was either too hot or too spicy. It eventually caught on though and the establishment became a popular fixture in the community.
Zajur said the Hispanic community population in the U.S. today is 55 million, which is more than the population of Canada and Central America. “The Hispanic community is very much part of the fiber of America.”
Zajur talked about embracing diverse perspectives, which is an important part of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He also said they work toward enriching the community.
“If you have seen the Latino logo it has a bridge, and we build bridges,” he said. “We do cultural workshops, and offer English classes for businesses. We do conversational classes for Spanish speakers. It is what you need to know.”
At the ceremony’s conclusion, the audience witnessed Maj. Gen Darrell K. Williams, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, read the oath of enlistment to five young Hispanic recruits from the Military Entrance Processing Station.
Originally published on Fort Lee Traveller