Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lyris Johanson
  • 8th Fighter Wing Protocol
The Hispanic Heritage Month at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, kicked off with a luncheon attended by members of the Wolf Pack to honor the beginning of this observance.

Hispanic Americans are recognized from Sept. 15 thru Oct. 15 each year for their contributions to the United States and to celebrate the rich Hispanic culture and tradition. This observance began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week by approval of President Lyndon B. Johnson and was expanded to a month-long celebration in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.

Many wonder why this observance begins on the 15th versus the beginning of the month. The answer is simple: Sept. 15 celebrates the independence of five Latin American countries, to include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico, Chile and Belize on subsequent days in the month of September.

Last year, in President Barack Obama's proclamation of the National Hispanic Heritage Month, he stated, "The Hispanic community's values - love of family, a deep and abiding faith, and a strong work ethic - are America's values. Hispanics bring together the rich traditions of communities with centuries-old roots in America and the energy and drive of recent immigrants." He went on to say Hispanics have been serving in conflicts since the Revolutionary War and in high political and government positions. For the first time in history, a Latina is among the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

As a proud Hispanic American, I also serve in the Air Force and so do many others. Capt. Jamie Hernandez, a member of the 8th Security Forces Squadron and the guest speaker at the luncheon, mentioned important key points that differentiate Hispanic Americans from the rest. One key point he mentioned was, when he was little, he was prohibited from speaking English at home. His mom did not want him or his brothers to lose their native tongue. This may apply to many Hispanic Americans today where Spanish was spoken at home and English at school. Unfortunately, some families preferred to refrain from speaking Spanish at all and therefore lost their native tongue.

However, today Spanish has prevailed; it is the second most spoken language in the United States. Our rich traditions and heritage have been kept alive for many centuries and continues to grow. There are 48 million Hispanic Americans in the United States, making Hispanics the fastest-growing minority group. As we continue to grow in size, so do our traditions.

I highly encourage each and every one of you to learn more about Hispanics in this month of observance. The Hispanic Heritage Committee has different activities planned throughout the month that enhances awareness here, from a display at the base library, to watching weekly Hispanic movies at the base theater, to taking salsa lessons at the Loring Club.

The great finale will be a block party that highlights dancing, food, friendship and camaraderie. "Viva la raza!"