ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- The U.S. Naval Academy kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 20 with a cultural and historical presentation in Bancroft Hall.
Coordinated by the Naval Academy's Diversity Department and the Latin American Studies Club (LASC), the celebration featured a guest speaker sharing his personal journey as a Hispanic American and impact of Hispanics in the Navy.
The ceremony also included presentations by Midshipmen who performed traditional Latin American dances for the audience.
The event was held in conjunction with the nationally recognized Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. It celebrates the history, culture and contributions of Hispanic Americans. This year's theme is "Hispanics leading and serving our nation with pride and honor."
"We started the planning process for this event back in May," said Lt. Andre Agraviador, assistant chief diversity officer. "We wanted to ensure that we educated the brigade and that this ceremony would bring midshipmen together to celebrate. It also provides good experience in public speaking, operations, and coordination for training future officers."
Guest speaker Maj. Danny Martinez, a professor in the Political Science Department, shared his story and elaborated on the significance of diversity in America.
"Our culture marks a direct contribution to our nation's history and to what being a citizen in the United States means," said Martinez, whose family is from Eagle Pass, Texas. "Our heritage provides us with a legacy that should be positively harnessed and employed in every facet of our lives."
The diversity of America's Navy contributes to the growth and benefit of its people and the organization overall. It is because of diversity that, "we are able to support each other," said Midshipman 3rd Class Gabriela Baez, president of LASC and a naturalized citizen from Mexico. "Expanding knowledge of our culture to the brigade only strengthens the bond between us.
"LASC seeks to provide Midshipmen from all backgrounds with opportunities to explore culture and embrace, encourage and foster a sense of pride and appreciation so they can carry it through their academic, athletics, and professional lives," said Baez.
Hispanic Heritage Month was originally celebrated as Hispanic Heritage Week, established in September 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan expanded the week and created Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic American Heritage Month explores and celebrates the contributions made by those whose roots trace back to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America.
Hispanic Americans make up a substantial portion of Sailors in the Navy. Today, there are more than 58,000 Hispanic active duty and Reserve Sailors and officers, and nearly 15,000 Hispanics serve within the Navy Total Force, along with four Hispanic flag officers and 172 Hispanic master chiefs.
The importance and influence of Hispanic Heritage on the Navy was present in all those who participated in the Naval Academy ceremony.
"This celebration represented the many years of Hispanic and Latin American heritage in our military services," said Baez. "I am honored that I could be a part of something that means so much to so many people."
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