Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) Sailors celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month at the historic Sharkey Theatre and attended a Hispanic-themed lunch at the Silver Dolphin Bistro, Oct.15.
During the ceremony, Capt. Stanley Keeve Jr., commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, spoke on the importance of recognizing diversity in the Navy, emphasizing the people in the service and their dedication to their jobs. He encouraged current and future leaders to care about the people who work for them, their cultures, background and their heritage.
"One of the advantages of being in the Navy is travel: you get to go to other countries and learn about other cultures, to experience them," said Keeve. "And here today we have one of the largest cultures in the Navy, in the nation and it is growing. So I applaud you for being here today, for serving this nation, because this is all about one thing - people, about knowing people of different races, different backgrounds, and it is all about teamwork."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic Americans make up over 17 percent of the U.S. population, and that percentage is growing.
Lt. Cmdr. Alex Torres, assigned to JBPHH, served as a guest speaker at the event, and shared his story of success in the Navy. A Puerto Rico native, Torres started his career as an E-1, advancing to the rank of Chief Petty Officer while serving in the submarine community, and pushed forward to becoming an officer and dedicating 26 years to the service. Torres also spoke of the military legacy and the leaders who inspired him to succeed.
"We can talk at length about our Spanish ancestry all they way up to today, and I am very proud of the legacy we have played, the role we carried in the history of the United States and in our Navy," said Torres as he spoke of the future of the Navy. "It doesn't matter who you are, the future is you, sitting in this crowd, and the other Sailors who are working with you or are standing the watch. I am where I am because of my Sailors. I lead them and they execute, I put the plan together and they make it happen. I'm standing here because people have faith and hope in me."
As part of the ceremony, dancers Greg "Salsaman" Henry and Ariel del Rosario of the Hot Salsa Hawaii, performed various Hispanic dances, from salsa to merengue, to the musical accompaniment provided by Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Leszek Romero, assigned to commander, Navy Region Hawaii, inviting everyone in attendance to join in and be a part of the celebration.
Romero, who was born in Honduras, also shared his personal story, starting his career with minimal knowledge of the English language and rising to the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class. With a self-professed fulfilling career with a variety of experiences, Romero encouraged Sailors of all cultures and backgrounds to use their heritage and diversity as an advantage and motivation to succeed.
After the ceremony, guests were invited to take part in a Hispanic-themed lunch at Silver Dolphin Bistro, which included such dishes as aguado de pollo, lechon asado, papas chorreadas, Brazilian collard, piononitos, caraotas and many other dishes.
The tradition of observing Hispanic Heritage began Sept. 17, 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated a week in mid-September as National Hispanic Heritage Week. Twenty years later in 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended that week to a month-long observance beginning Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15 to celebrate the contributions and culture of citizens of Latin American descent.
National Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries on Sept. 15: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico celebrates their day of independence on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18.