by Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Collier
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Peterson Air Force Base celebrates Hispanic Heritage “Month” with a number of events sponsored by the base’s Hispanic Heritage Observation Committee.
Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because five Latin American countries celebrate their independence anniversary that day: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Each country declared independence from Spain in 1821.
“In the Latin world, community, family and culture have always been big things,” said Master Sgt. Arthur Figeroa, who is the committee’s chairperson and has been involved with the observance for four years. “It’s always fun to see other people have the same enthusiasm you do when displaying their heritage.”
The committee hosted a fitness event Sept. 24 to kick off the month’s activities. At Eagle Park, runners went on a five kilometer “Run for all Nations.” Inside the Peterson Sports and Fitness Center, a group of Zumba enthusiasts worked out to Latin music with Zumba instructor Diana Banzali.
The committee will host a tasting luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 15 at Eagle Park which features foods from a variety of Latin nations. A Mariachi performance will be conducted by Jesus “Chuy” Revilla during the luncheon, followed by a traditional Latin dance performed by the Colorado Springs-based group “Ballet Folklorio de la Raza”.
“In today’s society, it’s a good idea to learn about other people’s cultures and their background,” Sergeant Figeroa said. “It’s always been a big deal to me being Hispanic.”
The period of observance recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the U.S. and to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture. The observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was approved by President Lyndon Johnson. Later, President Ronald Reagan expanded the observance in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988 on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
Other Latin countries, including Mexico, Chile and Belize, celebrate their independence days soon after. Mexico recognizes Sept. 16 as its day of independence, while Chile and Belize celebrate Sept. 18 and Sept. 21, respectively.